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Riverbank Challenge 2012 Vendetta: Beat The Monstars
Somewhere out there is a team photo of the 2001 section championship boys basketball squad from Riverbank High covered in darts. The Bruin alumni now dubbed the 'Monstars' won back-to-back Riverbank Challenge Alumni tournaments in 2010 and 2011, clearly targeting the Bruin grads as the favorites this year. Eleven other teams get a shot at the Monstars at the Fourth Annual Riverbank Challenge on July 20 and 21 at RHS.

"The Monstars are still loaded and definitely the team to beat," Riverbank varsity basketball coach Jeff Jennings said on Monday. "But this year I think is the most balanced tournament we have had, and I would not be surprised to see any team get upset."

Jennings and the RBKlassics (also the home to Chris and Zack Gonzales) won the first Alumni Tourney in 2009, but faltered against the Monstars during the tourney finale for the past two years.

The two teams are again slated on opposite ends of a 12-team bracket that includes over 100 Bruin grads, teachers and coaches. The tourney also features the 2012-13 varsity Bruins (RBK New School), which plays the Monstars in the first round of bracket action.

Four first-round winners on July 20 advance to the championship quarterfinals for a shot to see top and bottom bracket winners that earned a bye to the semifinals the next day.

The four-team semifinals decide the championship showdown slated for 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 21 at the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium. It's a serious bracket and the games are incredibly intense, despite the varying ages of participants, Jennings noted. Squads tackle each contest with a specific game plan to best suit their recruited roster of alumni and coaches/teachers.

"It blows me away how big this thing has grown," Jennings said. "We had ten teams the first year and that surprised me because I was hoping to get six.

"We have more players involved every year and it's really shown us how family-oriented a community that Riverbank is."

Jennings said the rosters include a handful of players who are making their first ever return to the hardwood. Marty Remmers, a former three-sport Bruin standout, will make the trek from Chico while former two-sport Bruin star, David Cebreros, visits from San Diego.

Team 'Mo Show' is a dark horse to make the finals in 2012 despite their position on the same side of the tournament bracket as the Monstars. The team made an NBA-like maneuver to acquire Mike Meinert from the Monstars and also rosters 2012 Bruin grad and hoops standout, Logan Nabors (and his brother Giovanni Nabors). Recent grads, including 2012 Riverbank News Athlete of the Year, Alex Reynaga, are featured on team SCRAPPYS, which squares off with Jennings and the RBKlassics in the first round. It's a potential bracket-buster that could send Jennings to the consolation bracket, considering Reynaga, Antony Naverrette and Robert Martinez were key pieces in Riverbank's run to the NorCal Championship Tournament last year.

And the smack-talk has already started.

"Alex saw the bracket and stopped by yesterday to talk some trash," Jennings said with a laugh. "I told him he needs to stay out there and shoot threes because I can still foul with the best of them."

The tournament also includes football stars Michael Ligon (Delta Junior College standout) and Donovan Wallace, a track and football star for Modesto Junior College now listed on the Virginia University of Lynchburg football roster as a wide receiver. Wallace plays for the 'Icy Hot Ballerz' while Ligon, who attended Riverbank High only as a freshman, was sought out and recruited to play for 'Run N Gun'.

"There is a lot of shuffling of guys on teams, and everyone is trying to find that Ray Allen or Steve Nash," Jennings added.

Between the recruiting, roster changes, varying strategies and highly-attended sessions of open gym, it's obvious the Riverbank Challenge is much more than the friendly get-together for past and present Bruins as advertised.

"Everyone is pretty pumped and most people are pretty excited about seeing each other again," Jennings said. "It's just a chance to get together once a year and celebrate all things Riverbank."

The tournament also includes a three-point shoot-out and is followed by a Pizza Social after the championship game where just $8 buys attendees all-they-can-eat pizza and soda at Pizza Plus.

The tournament snack bar will be run by the Alumni Association, which uses the proceeds to generate Bruin scholarships.