Gathered at midcourt with grins etched across their faces and index fingers hoisted, a collection of Riverbank alumnus humbly celebrated a championship run through the Fifth Annual Riverbank Alumni Basketball Tournament on July 20.
Winners of three straight games, Run N Gun had dropped talented opposition from across the alumni spectrum and rallied to defeat the three-time champion Monstars 79-70 in front of a healthy crowd of community members.
But they weren’t exactly ecstatic.
Like a Barry Bonds’ home run record — this title came with an asterisk.
With Monstars’ talent Brian Rotan and Steve Meinert both missing from their championship lineup, Run N Gun couldn’t accept the 2013 title without recognizing their foes’ missing pieces.
“This win kind of has an asterisk to it,” 2005 Bruin graduate Kevin Cole said afterwards. “This has been four years coming, but without (Rotan and Meinert), it’s a different game.”
The Monstars trailed throughout the contest, but clung to a narrow deficit after big treys across the lineup and tenacious post-play by 6 foot, 10 inch Aaron Gentry. Without Rotan and Meinert to help dominate the paint, Gentry was the lone force by the basket, and couldn’t stop a dazzling display of short-range shots by Run N Gun sensation, Fabian Cano.
The 2003 graduate dazzled onlookers with converted field goals from nearly every corner of the floor. He sunk contested fadeaways, converted repeated jump-shots near the foul line and displayed a surprising combination of athleticism and hustle.
“Our speed was too much for them,” Cano said. “That’s just how we play.”
Cano wasn’t the only player in red to deliver in that fashion.
Speedy guard Ray Baca, a 2007 graduate and former TVL Most Outstanding Player, was tremendous in transition and deadly near the hoop. He rarely left the floor and his ridiculous pace left Monstars opposition floundering in his wake.
Run N Gun found most of their success from a lineup that featured Cano, Baca, Cole, Frankie Pineda and Michael Ligon (attended RHS as a freshman). Scott Jeglum, Troy Studebaker and Rick Perez also provided quality minutes in the collective effort.
The group said they trained for the tournament with simple open-gym sessions hosted by Bruin coach Jeff Jennings, and said the losses sustained in the prior tournaments provided all the motivation they needed.
The unit nearly made a finals appearance last year, but fell at the buzzer during the event semifinals when the Jennings-led Retro Classic converted a game-winning shot as time expired.