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MONSTARS DO IT AGAIN! - 2001 Section Champs Take Third Straight Tourney Title
The same fire that blazed a trail to a Sac-Joaquin Section basketball championship in 2001 still rages inside the bodies of 10 Riverbank High graduates.

The Bruin alumni now dubbed the 'Monstars' rallied through the 12-team Riverbank Challenge on Friday and Saturday, blasting fierce rivals, RBKlassics, in a stunning dominant finale in front of a healthy crowd at the Ray E. Fauria Memorial Gymnasium.

Brian Rotan's long three-pointer with 10 seconds to play was the final flame to a 75-54 barnburner for the Monstars, who have now won the (fourth) annual Riverbank alumni tournament three times in a row.

Rotan finished with 23 points and was spectacular from beyond the arc (five treys), in transition and on the defensive front. Combined with 6 foot, 10 inch Aaron Gentry (19 points) and strong postman Steve Meinert (14 points), it was an effort the RBKlassics could not match.

"This team has been playing together since junior high," Rotan said following the finale. "We don't have to go to a lot of practices to know what each other is thinking, it just comes natural."

The Monsters jumped out to a 23-10 lead in the first half, but the RBKlassics battled back on the momentum of big threes from Miguel Alaniz and Jeff Jennings to sneak to a 23-22 deficit with under seven minutes to play in the half.

The Monstars led by just 11 points with five minutes, thirty seconds to play, but vaulted ahead as costly turnovers and missed shots kept the RBKlassics from the hoop. A thrilling ally-oop dunk from Gentry sparked the Monstars before a 15-5 run to close the game.

"Those guys are fierce competitors," Jennings, Riverbank's varsity boys basketball coach, said. "The fact that they have been playing together is only part of it. When you've got guys who are 6-10 and a lot of others who hit the weight room, you are going to be pretty tough."

Jennings, Alaniz and Isaac Kinsey had 10 points each for the RBKlassics while Chris Gonzales, the three-point shootout champion, led the team with 21.

The tournament was played in two gyms in a double-elimination bracket that saw several close games. The RBKlassics had to beat Run N' Gun at the buzzer to advance to the semifinals while the Monstars rallied to beat team 'Mo Show' by just four points. The game was a followed by a well-attended gathering at Pizza Plus.

"You're just exhausted when it's done, but it's a good feeling," Jennings said on Monday. "Even though we all get on the court and bang, bruise each other up, we go hang out afterwards."

No one may have been more banged up than Gonzales, who collided with a defender earlier in the game and limped his way to a team high point total throughout the remaining minutes. The former Junior College All American who has played professionally overseas hit the hardwood often in a game that tested his physicality to the maximum.

"The physical style of play embodies what Riverbank basketball is all about," Gonzales explained. "Riverbank may not have the most talent, but Jeff manages to find the guys that work their tails off.

"Playing through pain is all part of being a part of a program with toughness."