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SENTINEL REVIEW OF DADS CLUB TOURNAMENT THROUGH 1995
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Through The Years Of Dads to 1995. All action listed involves SC
The Dads Club tournament turns 40 this year and the list of memories, highlights and players touches all the senses. Hear again the screams from Larry Griffin’s last second dunk in 1965. The heartache of host SC, which hasn’t won its own tournament since 1978. And there is so much more.
From 1967-69, SC won three straight titles. In 1967 with Bill Dodge at the helm, three sophomores led the Cards to a surprising championship. Tom Foster, Kris Sorensen and Gary Ghidinelli combined to push SC past Monterey 58-51. In the 1968 title game against North Salinas, Ghidinelli and Dan Rodriguez teamed up to hold off the Vikings in the waning moments of overtime, 57-55.
“Memories fade after a while, but that championship in 1967 was unexpected,” said Dodge, who coached the varsity team from 1961 to 1972. “We had three starting sophomores and I didn’t expect that to happen. They were a very good group and they didn’t lose too many gamed in three years.” In fact, SC made it to the CCS finals in 1968 and ‘69, back when only league champions advanced to the playoffs and there was only one post season division. While under Dodge’s leadership, SC garnered five of the school’s tournament record seven championships. Coach Jack Alzina piloted his 1973 team to a tournament championship win over Aptos for the sixth tournament title.
Finishing second four straight years, SC didn’t win its first championship until 1961 when Steve Smith hit a 20 footer with five seconds to go against Monterey to give SC a thrilling 36-35 win in overtime. That win is rivaled only perhaps an even more exciting game in 1965. Trailing 54-53 to Monterey, Larry Griffin stole a pass and dunked with 2 second left to hand the title to the Cards.
Since beginning in 1957, the tournament has undergone many changes. With the opening of Soquel, Aptos and Harbor over the years, the tournament has featured more local teams, opening up the tournament to more people attending. The Civic Auditorium was packed full of fans and when a spirit trophy was awarded for the best rooting section, when a whole section or more would be filled.
Back at the beginning of the tournament, each town had only one high school. It was SC, Watsonville and SLV. Each local school had a lot of fan support. There were not as many other outside distractions.
Pete Newell took over the program in 1975, remembers the tournaments heyday during the 1980’s. There is tradition which implies continuity, where you have the same people helping out year after year and even those who come to watch every year.” Newell said. “It’s also an opportunity to asses a number of local teams. The Civic is just an intimate environment. You can hear the players talking across the foul line and you can hear coaches giving instructions and support from stands.” That enthusiasm is built on tradition.
Like SC, Salinas is the only other school to appear in every tournament. Joe Chappell the Salinas coach since 1971 until 2009 also played in the first two tournaments. He continues to come back because of the tournaments reputation and organization. “They do a tremendous job . The hospitality is one of a kind and it’s good competition we don’t see a lot of.” Chappell coached teams have won the tournament three times and placed second twice.
But the memories are vivid for many. The names and feats just roll off the tattered, yellowed newspaper clippings.
From The Emmett Thompson Memorial Dad’s Club Tournament 52nd year program, a \narrative of the original Dads Club tournament wins by Santa Cruz, written by Lorraine Bispo, formers assistant to the athletic directors/vice principals SCHS.
Fifty-two years ago the first annual Santa Cruz Invitational Tournament began the community tradition now known as the Dad’s Club Tournament. More than just showcasing eight of the Central Coast’s premier prep. basketball teams and previewing the SCCAL boys’ basketball season to come, the Tournament has become an opportunity for local businesses and community leaders to support SCHS athletics. With a rich history of exciting championships and community sponsorship, the Dad’s Club Tournament has truly become a highlight of the Santa Cruz County athletic season. From Steve Smith’s overtime buzzer-beater in 1961 securing the championship for host Santa Cruz to the dominant Aptos-Harbor rivalry of the early 1980’s, to Bill Miller’s unbelievable 47-footer at the buzzer in 1984, the Tourney has never failed to excite and entertain. Let’s take a look back at the intensity and excitement of the Dad’s Club past.
In 1962 Santa Cruz, after finishing second the previous three years, finally won its own tournament, defeating Monterey 36-35 in an overtime defensive thriller. In a game in which the lead exchanged hands 12 times. It was the superb play of Santa Cruz’ Steve Smith which proved to be the difference. Smith, who finished with 14 points, scored the game-winning 20-foot jumper with 5 seconds remaining in overtime to secure the SC win and consequent championship. Defensively Smith, who was named Tournament MVP, also held Monterey’s John Reed, an all-CCAL selection the previous year, to just one point. Santa Cruz outscored Monterey by 7 points in the 4th quarter and overtime period and out-rebounded the Toreadors 33-24 (Smith led all players with 11 boards) to overcome poor shooting early on in the contest.
In 1965, one of the most exciting tournaments took place–another showdown between the Cardinals and the Toreadors. This time the Cardinals took it. It was a game of the buzzer, as both teams played neck and neck basketball. With 50 seconds left, the Toreadors were winning 54-51. Then Santa Cruz got a layup, making it 54-53. Monterey made a looping half-court pass which was intercepted by Larry Griffin. He grabbed the ball and dribbled down court, setting up his winning shot. Larry received tourney MVP, scoring 22 points and grabbing 22 boards to lead the Cards to its second Dad Club victory.
In 1967, Santa Cruz defeated Monterey once again to become the first 3-time champion in the still-brief history of the Tournament, improving their record to 5-0. Down 25-22 at the half, the Cardinals fought back in the 3rd behind the play of sophomore standout Gary Ghidinelli. Santa Cruz, who rebounded from 31% first half shooting to shoot 55% in the second half, led the Toreadors 41-30 as the 4th quarter began. Monterey contested late, but crucial offensive rebounding by 6’ 5 sophomore center Kris Sorenson kept SC ahead. Tom Foster of Santa Cruz was named to the all-tournament team.
In 1968 another exciting victory is won in overtime, with the Santa Cruz Cardinals prevailing over the North Salinas Vikings 57-55. The game was a trading of leads with the Vikings up in the 4th until the Cardinals went on a scoring spree which gave them a 2-point lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game. When Viking Dennis Haddan was fouled, the entire game for North Salinas came to rest on his shoulders. He made the two free throws given to him, bringing the score to 47-47 at the end of normal time. Overtime was nerve-wracking and close. A good pass and a layup by Cardinal Gary Ghidinelli brought Santa Cruz to 55-53 with less than a minute to go. The icing on the cake came when Ghidinelli was fouled and made both of his free throws, leaving 8 seconds left in the game. Amazingly, the Vikings made one final basket at the buzzer from a long pass and a shot taken by Haddan.
The Santa Cruz Cardinals steamed along into their third consecutive tourney victory in 1969, beating the North Salinas Vikings in a high-scoring game that left North Salinas in the dust of a 79-63 victory. The Cardinals had on their side Gary Ghidinelli, the tourney’s MVP, as well as Kirk Waller and Kris Sorenson, all of whom were named to the All-Tournament team for their outstanding performances during the three-day affair. The first half was a close game neither team getting ahead more than a few points. It was the 3rd quarter that made the difference. North Salinas’ mistakes were plenty and Ghidinelli was everywhere for every rebound. By the end of the 3rd quarter, Santa Cruz had scored 24 points while the Vikings wielded a dismal 8.
North Salinas never recovered.
It’s 1973, and we find the Santa Cruz Cardinals crowned champions again. This time they played Aptos in a high scoring game that was in favor of the Redbirds for much of the game.
During the 2nd quarter, the Redbirds began to build up their lead, which climaxed at 60-46 with only a minute left in the 3rd. Things were looking grim for Santa Cruz, and to top it off, Card sharpshooter Reed fouled out, and another good player was sent to the bench. But wait, it’s not all over; Santa Cruz is coming back. The biggest scoring spree of the game brought Santa Cruz into a late lead with 66-62 and 5 minutes left in the game. An excellent burst of teamwork resulted in a score of 74-71 Santa Cruz with a little over a minute to go. Cardinal David Bruce was a key factor in the final moments of the game with a layup and two free throws which were the last points scored in the 80-71 game.
In 1979 on heckuva ball game, as Santa Cruz Cardinal coach Newell put it, as the Cardinals beat the San Lorenzo Valley Cougars 47-44 in an overtime win. The Cougars were in control of the scoreboards as well as the tempo of the game during the first half. But by the end of the 4th quarter, the Cardinals had pulled ahead to 42-20 with a minute to go. Loeffler made two free throws under heavy pressure to tie the game and send it into overtime. Free throws played a very important role in the game, with Santa Cruz making 7 of 11 and San Lorenzo hitting 12 of 18. Cardinal Lad Gross hit a one-handed follow-up jumper to gain the lead. With time falling away like sand in the wind, Cardinal Brian Whitesell made a 1 and 1 free throw, putting Santa Cruz ahead 45-44 with 20 seconds to go. With 5 seconds left, Whitesell was fouled again and coolly sunk 2 free throws to ice the cake at 47-44.
The 1996 championship game was the first of four meetings between SCCAL rivals Santa Cruz and Aptos, in which SC decisively prevailed 75-53. It was a significant win for SC coach Pete Newell, who’d not been host and champion since 1979. We’re proud of our accomplishment–It’s always one of our goals, commented Coach Newell following the win. The Cardinals out-muscled the smaller Aptos front line, which was without injured 6’7 center John Smith. Center Jason Brooks and forward Kam Watson dominated inside, helping the Cards capitalize early and in the 4th quarter when turnovers and poor Aptos shot selection opened the door for SC to put the game away. Aptos was held to only six 4th quarter points, a period in which the Mariners scored only one field goal (with 2:42 left to play). Watson finished the game with 17 points and 18 rebounds and was named tournament MVP. Brooks finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds and along with teammates Nick Theodosis and Mike McDuffie was named to the all-tournament team.
Santa Cruz rejoiced in 1999. They had won the Dads Club Tournament for the first time in the last 5 years. For the first half of the game, Santa Cruz struggled. But the old Cards came back, taking a 29-25 lead going into the half. The win of 61-38 over Salinas showed Santa Cruz what a strong team they were by shutting down Salinas to only 12 points in the entire second half, while they (Santa Cruz) rampaged, getting 32 points. It was intensity, said Derek McDougall, who was given the MVP award. With the presence of 6’ 9 Marcel Jackson and 6’ 6 Josh Rhodes, Santa Cruz had a strong rebounding squad. Tyler Williams, Josh Rhodes and Derek McDougall all made the All-Tournament team. The turning point in the game was Josh Rhodes’ two handed dunk to take the go-ahead points.
The year 2001 again saw Salinas and Santa Cruz advance to the finals. Salinas had won the championship in 2000, but Santa Cruz battled to become the champion in 2001, as it had been in 1999. Dads Club Founder/Coach Emmett Thompson presented the coach’s award to Santa Cruz’ Coach Pete Newell.
In 2002 in the Dads Club Championship, Santa Cruz edged Soquel High 66-63. The Cardinals started strong with an 11-0 early lead, but Soquel rallied back to take a 23-22 lead minutes before the half. Soquel could not stop the Cardinals offensive attack led by Sam Heft-Neal who was five out of his first five 3-pointers. Soquel kept Tourney MVP Josh Rhodes scoreless in the second period, but Santa Cruz just turned to many of their other mighty weapons,. Rhodes finished the night with 22 points. Soquel was led by Chase Curtiss, who scored 24 points; his brother Conner scored 7.
A first for Dads Club in 2003. A major storm in the area knocked out power in much of Santa Cruz, and the Civic Auditorium was dark for the last day of the Tourney, December 14, The final three games were re-scheduled for January 11, 2003 at Santa Cruz High’s Fehliman Gym. Salinas and Santa Cruz battled it out for the championship. Salinas scored 17 points in the first quarter, but Santa Cruz dominated the next two quarters. In the 4th quarter, Salinas came back, and the two teams were neck and neck down to the wire, with some great action by Austin Swift. Santa Cruz won 60-55. SC’s Cameron Rhodes led the Cards with 14 points; Austin Swift had 13.
2004 brought us the 48th Dads Club Tourney. In the championship game, Watsonville battled it out with Santa Cruz before a near-capacity crowd at the Civic Auditorium. SC trailed for much of the first half, cutting its deficit to one by half-time. The score was tied at the end of the third quarter; Santa Cruz started to pick up the tempo and capitalized on free throws, winning the game 49-42. SC’s Eric Van Vliet scored a game-high 12 points; MVP Cliff Sammet scored 11. This was SC’s sixth championship game in as many years. And its 4th straight title.
In 2005, the championship game, St Francis Mt. View took an early lead over defending champions Santa Cruz Cardinals. The first half ended with St. Francis leading the Cardinals 23-19. Santa Cruz adjusted and took over the second half, defeating the Lancers 49-36 to win their 5th straight Dads Club championship. SC’s Austin Swift had a game-high 23 points, Chris Sharp scored 11, and MVP Junior Russell had 8. 2005 marked the 50th year of the Dad’s Club Tourney!
2006 ushered in a new era for the Dad’s Club 51st year. Our founder, Emmett Thompson, passed away this fall, and the tournament was re-named: The Emmett Thompson Memorial Dad’s Club Tournament. The program contained many remembrances and comments from former players and friends of Coach Thompson and pictures of the early 1950’s teams. The players from that time enjoyed reminiscing about those “old days.”