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Rob Solomon was unassuming MVP in Placer’s 1979 Kendall Arnett title run

By: Mike Ray,
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The 71st annual Kendall Arnett Tournament tips off today at Placer High School. 
The much-anticipated event gets underway with Union Mine taking on El Camino at 3:30 p.m. Bear River will face Woodcreek at 5 p.m. with Colfax-Del Campo following at 6:30 p.m. The hosting Placer Hillmen square off against San Juan at 8 p.m.
The championship game is Saturday at 8 p.m.
Follow Sports Editor Matthew Kimel on Twitter @matthewkimel for updates throughout the weekend. Use the hashtag #KendallArnett if you plan to tweet from the game. 

 

By his own admission, Rob Solomon remembers that when the 1979-80 basketball season started at Placer High, he and his Hillmen teammates didn’t exactly come out and set the month of December on fire.
“I remember that myself, Bob Reeves and John Aubuchon all came out late for basketball that year after our football team reached the playoffs,” said Solomon this week as he remembered back to the first month of the 1979 campaign. “By coming out late, we were actually all trying to kind of earn our playing time back.”
The Hillmen, with Wendell Witt in his first year at the reins of that ’79-80 squad after replacing long-time coach Tom Barry who had stepped down following the previous season, were only 5-3 with a pair of third-place tournament finishes at Del Oro and Turlock as the 1979 Kendall Arnett approached.
However, right before the Arnett, the Hillmen perhaps showed some glimpses of what was to come when they led Jesuit for three-and-a-half quarters at Earl Crabbe Gym before eventually succumbing, 62-58.
But partly thanks to Solomon, the Hillmen went back to the drawing board right before the Arnett and when they emerged from a week’s worth of quality practice time, pulled off an unexpected Arnett championship victory.
“I don’t think anyone saw it coming,” Solomon said. “We had lost some good players from the year before so at that point we were kind of still finding ourselves.”
Going into the ’79 Arnett, Solomon was averaging about four points a game and as a 6-foot-2 forward was keyed more towards playing good defense, rebounding and helping get the ball to all-league guards Jeff Sherfy and Terry Trentman. “We were definitely guard oriented,” said a laughing Solomon about Sherfy and Trentman, who both had the “green light” from Witt.
In their opening game of the Arnett that season, the Hillmen rolled past Casa Roble, 61-44, as Sherfy and Trentman both scored 16 points apiece and the unassuming Solomon followed with 12.
In a competitive semifinal round win, Placer fought off Woodland, 76-68, with Solomon scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The win by the Hillmen set up a showdown for the tourney title with Nevada Union, at the time Placer’s fierce Sierra Foothill League rival that with new coach Kermit Young at the helm had transformed into the new power of the SFL as the Miners went a stretch where they won five league and two section titles from 1978 to 1983.
The previous year in the 1978 Arnett title game, Nevada Union had destroyed Mira Loma in one of the most lopsided Arnett title game victories in the tournament’s 71-year history, 77-35. Also, in the first two rounds of the ’79 Arnett, the Miners had made things look easy in short-work routs of both Vacaville and Turlock.
So when the Miners shot out to a 20-8 lead after the first quarter of the ’79 championship game against Placer, a lot of fans were probably thinking of heading to the exits at halftime.
But Solomon and the Hillmen would have no part of it.
Placer started its long comeback by trimming the Miners’ big lead to eight by intermission. The Hillmen then finally caught NU on a Solomon tip-in midway through the fourth quarter. When it was all over Solomon had scored a career-high 18 points, 10 coming in the pivotal fourth quarter to fuel Placer’s 64-54 victory.
“This was a big win for us because of the way we played and that we beat a championship team,” Witt said following the game. 
For his stellar three-day efforts, Solomon was selected as the Arnett MVP. He was joined on the all-tourney team by teammates Sherfy and Trentman.
“It was an unexpected but sweet win for us,” said Solomon, now a 50-year-old physical therapist assistant who resides in the Weimar area. “I don’t think that people today realize the intensity of the Placer-NU rivalry in those days. It was definitely a nice comeback for us.”