The rivalry between Riverbank High’s 2001 section championship basketball team and a collection of cagy alumni led by Bruin coach Jeff Jennings and three-point sensation Chris Gonzales is more infamous than the clash between Coke and Pepsi.
Despite delivering a strong field of talented alumnus across numerous squads each year, the Monstars (2001 champs) and Retro Classic (Jennings, Gonzales) have met in the finals of all four tournament brackets.
They won’t this year.
When the Fifth Annual Alumni Tournament tips off at the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium on the RHS campus on Friday, July 19, the 12-team bracket will feature both the Monstars and Retro Classic in the same quarterfinal bracket.
Jennings and Co. believe this gives the Retro Classic squad a chance to designate the three-time tourney champs to the fifth place game, but history indicates a likelihood that six-foot, 10-inch star center Aaron Gentry will just have a different bald spot to dunk the ball on.
Retro Classic won the first meeting, but the Monstars have claimed top honor for each of the last three showdowns, including a 75-54 shellacking in 2012.
“We have met up in the finals every year, so now we put ourselves in the same bracket,” Jennings said. “It provides opportunity for a little different championship flavor.”
The six teams on the bottom half of the bracket have the greatest opportunity for a finals appearance. Among them are the Heartbreak Kids (HBK), led by recent Northern California State tournament qualifiers Alex Reynaga, Kenny Veliz and Markus Benson.
The guard-heavy unit expects to showcase a degree of hustle potentially unmatched across the bracket. They are young, spry and have the invaluable attribute of big-game experience. But they won’t have an easy time of things.
Last year, team ‘Mo Show’ fell by just four points to the tourney-champion Monstars, while Run N’ Gun forced the Retro Classic to beat them at the buzzer. Both of those upset-minded squads are in the same bracket-half as HBK, and will vie for a finals trip alongside Live Strong, Icy Hot Ballers, Berg Krew, Up Top, M&M RBK, Old School and Riverbank’s 2013-14 varsity squad (dubbed RBK New School).
The New School unit has gained momentum on alumni programs each year, leaving whispers of potential prep champions until star senior Rolaun Dunham announced his absence from the bracket to attend a competitive youth tournament in Southern California.
Dunham’s prior commitments have done little to take away from bracket-intrigue as community members come together to enjoy the biggest alumni affair of the year. The excitement is palpable when graduates from across the state arrive to take part in festivities and pre-tourney pick-up-games.
“It’s a lot of work to put this all together, but it’s just so exciting, even when you see these alumni come in during open gym,” Jennings said. “I think the two things people enjoy the most from the tournament are the chances to relive some old high school moments on the scoreboard and the ability to see old friends.”
The tournament features a $3 door fee, with T-shirts for sale and snack bar proceeds that directly aid high school scholarships through the Riverbank Alumni Association. The RHS cheerleading team will also distribute raffle tickets for terrific prizes to raise funds for a team trip.
The action begins on July 19 with 4 p.m. games while the tourney championship will be played the following day at the same time.