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Bruins Grab Third Place In Rotary Tournament
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Riverbank boys won three out of their four basketball games and scored a third place in the 16-team Oakdale Rotary Classic Tournament during Christmas week.

The varsity Bruins opened Monday by defeating Los Banos, 58-51; humbled Oakdale, 51-44, on Tuesday; barely lost to Ripon Christian, 53-51, on Wednesday ;and came back to defeat Sonora, 54-50, in Thursday's finale.

Riverbank's leading scorer, Kevin Cole, was named All Tournament among a selection of the tournament's top six players.

"All the games we won were against larger schools," said Bruin coach Jeff Jennings. "We are small in height but we did a great job of playing as a team. The boys played very well, knew their role and performed. We cane together as a team."

Jennings noted that Riverbank lost to Ripon Christian by only two points.

"We started the game a little sloppy. RC was shooting very well. Then we had to battle back when we'd waited a little too long. We had our chances, but we did not executive so well down the stretch."

Looking at the tournament as a whole, Jennings said he was "very impressed with the kids," and complimented them especially on their rebounding.

"We got a lot of rebounds against bigger teams. We can't afford to give taller players several chances at the basket."

Tackling Los Banos for openers, Riverbank jumped off to a 14-6 start that carried them through 13-14 and 11-13 deficits in the second and third quarters before they took charge, at 20-18, in the final period.

Drew Villalobos and Eric Rodriguez were the high point men for Riverbank with 13 points each. Ray Baca shot 13 points and Cole, 9. Both Baca and Cole hit three-3-pointers.

Wednesday's game against Oakdale was quite a show. Again Riverbank came out strong with a 15-7 opening quarter. But then the Bruins lost the second quarter, 4-12. Rebounding from a 19-19 tie at halftime, Riverbank won the game during the third quarter with a 12-5 lead before the teams again tied the last quarter, 20-20. Villalobos led on points with 1, trailed by Jon Blount, with 10, and Cole, with 9 points.

Riverbank hit nine out of 16 attempts at the foul line. Cole hit two outside shots and Baca and Blount, one each.

Facing Ripon Christian on Wednesday, the Bruins dropped behind by 14-22 in the first quarter. They improved and maintained the lead in subsequent quarters, 11-9, 15-13 and 11-9, but that first quarter ultimately gave the Knights their win by just two points.

Showing unerring accuracy, Cole posted 20 points as the Bruin leader. Dividing up the rest of the score more evenly, Baca posted 8 points; Nate Gonzales, 6; Villalobos, 3; and Blount and Kyle Mitchell, 2 points each.

Cole hit four of Riverbank's outside shots and Baca, the other two. At the free throw line, Riverbank and Ripon Christian were tied, 5-8.

Bouncing back for their final game Thursday, Riverbank socked it to Sonora, 54-50

Cole again led all scorers with 20 points, including five 3-pointers.

Riverbank forward Rodriguez distinguished himself by scoring 14 points, all of them in the second half, and eight in the fourth quarter.

He put back offensive rebounds. He went 4-for-4 at the free throw line

Coach Jennings commented that the team had been waiting a while for Rodriguez to show his stuff. That night he was consistent and more than competent throughout the game.

In Thursday's finale, Ripon Christian defeated Escalon, 64-53, to score the Knights first Oakdale Rotary Tournament championship since 1993.

This week, the Bruins are back on their home court in two games. They will play Bret Harte on Friday, Jan. 7, and begin Trans Valley League competition on Saturday, Jan 8. The tip off is at 7:30 p.m.