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Kendall Arnett Tournament preview: Seven schools bring winning marks to classic hoops event

By: Mike Ray / Gold Country News Service
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When the 71st Kendall Arnett boys basketball tournament tips off Thursday for a three-day run at Placer High, the majority of this year’s eight-team field will enter the long running tournament playing some red-hot basketball.
Take for instance the following:
• No fewer than seven of this year’s entries come into the tournament with winning records.
• Four of the teams (Colfax, Bear River, Placer and Del Campo) have already notched nine or more victories.
• Five of the teams have won at least six of their last seven games.
• And five teams (Colfax, Bear River, El Camino, Woodcreek and Del Campo) already hold wins over respective tournament opposition.  
This year’s tournament features six returning squads in Placer, Colfax, Bear River, Woodcreek, San Juan and defending champion Del Campo.
Those returnees will be joined by a pair of tournament newcomers, Union Mine, making its Arnett debut, and El Camino, a squad that returns to the Arnett for the first time since the early 1960s.
Here’s a capsule look at the tournament’s opening round games set for Dec. 27:
 
3:30 p.m. – Union Mine (6-4) vs. El Camino (7-4) – The Diamondbacks from the Sierra Valley Conference, coached by longtime foothills area mentor Mike Verbitsky (El Dorado, Ponderosa, Golden Sierra) take on the Eagles from the Capital Athletic League. One of El Camino’s wins this season is a 61-54 decision over Bear River, the Bruins’ lone loss of the year. 
5 p.m. – Bear River (10-1) vs. Woodcreek (6-7) – Bear River will enter the tournament with 6-foot-6 Justin Beskeen as one of the top scorers (23.1) in the Sacramento area. Last weekend the Bruins cruised past Argonaut, 72-54, and Mesa Verde, 66-54, at the Union Mine Div. IV Challenge with Beskeen totaling 52 points in the two wins. Woodcreek, meanwhile, was one of the tournament surprises a year ago and return standouts Noah Blackwell, a sophomore guard, and Tyler Milani, a senior forward. Despite a sub .500 record, one of Woodcreek’s wins this season came at the hands of pre-tournament favorite Del Campo, 67-65.
 
6:30 p.m. – Colfax (11-2) vs. Del Campo (9-3) – Perhaps Thursday’s most attractive first round matchup pairs the Falcons, who are coming a recent championship win at the Les Curry Invitational in Davis and two more wins at last weekend’s Div. IV Challenge, against the Cougars, who won the recent Maverick Classic at Mesa Verde and last week impressed with a 67-61 win at Oak Ridge. Del Campo is led by the one-two punch of 6-4 junior wing Vince Saraba (21.3) and 6-7 post player Semir Cahtarevic (15.0). Saraba, hitting five treys, dropped 34 points on Oak Ridge.
 
8 p.m. – Placer (10-3) vs. San Juan (7-5) – The Hillmen are off to a strong start with two of their losses coming at the hands of talented foes in the form of Enterprise and Kennedy of Sacramento. Coach Mark Lee’s squad has followed an offensive punch led by Isaiah Pineiro, Peter Kean, Michael McNamara and Jordan Tucker. Pineiro, a force inside at 6-5, is averaging 20 points a game over his last six games. San Juan, meanwhile, has been competitive in all of its games this season including a four-point loss to Bear River. Top player for the Spartans is guard Lincoln Gallegos who is scoring at 15.5 per game.