Wildcat boys basketball to face strong national competition

Mount Si's boys basketball team leaves this weekend for San Diego to compete in a big holiday tournament.

Mount Si’s boys basketball team leaves this weekend for San Diego, Calif., to compete in a big holiday tournament.

It’s the second straight year that the Wildcat boys have competed in the Surf N’Slam tournament, put on for the last 20 years by Basketball Travelers, an Edmonds firm which organizes tournaments for high school and college teams throughout the country. Several years ago, Mount Si’s girls team participated in a Basketball Travelers holiday tournament in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Wildcat boys will have some tough opponents on the road.

“Competition is going to be a lot better than it was last year —and it was pretty good last year,” said Mount Si coach Jeff D’Ambrosio.

Tough play starts right away with a team from Massillon, Ohio. The Jackson Polar Bears, from this city of 33,000 located near Canton, now have several players who have signed Division I college scholarships, according to the Canton Repository newspaper. The Bears, as of Dec. 16, are unbeaten at 3-0 and are among the best teams in northeast Ohio.

“It will be a good test, but we play as a team. If everyone just does their part, we’re good,” said Mount Si senior Justin Downer.

Depending on what happens in that first game, scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28, the Wildcats could face either Lake Stevens, from Snohomish County, or a team from Chartiers Valley, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, on Tuesday.

Other teams in their “Surf” bracket include Metro League power Bainbridge; Mentor, from near Cleveland, Ohio; White Rock Christian, from just across the Canadian border in White Rock, B.C., and Woodcreek, from Sacramento, Calif. — a team the Wildcats fell to in last year’s tournament.

Competing in a major tournament requires a lot of effort by boosters during the course of the year in order to raise enough money to go.

The basketball booster club, which meets monthly, has been a huge supporter, D’Ambrosio said. Most of their fundraising is for trips and other program needs.

“There are a handful of parents that have been really very dedicated and work really hard,” the coach said. “It’s quite an undertaking to go on these trips and they do a really nice job, so we’re fortunate to have their support.”

Besides the games, Mount Si will be spending a day at Disneyland, and also plan several other excursions during the course of their stay.

Wildcat senior star Tanner Riley thinks this could be solid preparation for the team as they move into the heart of the Kingco schedule, which will include games with Bellevue and Mercer Island. “It’s definitely going to be really good competition,” he said. “When we play with them, we’ll know we can play with anybody.”