Inaugural Tip-Off Classic looks to become top tournament

CARLSBAD — The Coast News and Army and Navy Academy are teaming up to host a major high-school basketball tournament that looks to become a destination for top high school teams in years to come.

The paper has signed up as title sponsor for The Coast News Tip-Off Classic, a 10-team varsity and junior varsity basketball tournament hosted at sites throughout North and Central San Diego County, Southwest Riverside and South Orange counties. The semifinals and finals of the varsity division will be held at the Duffield Sports Center, the academy’s state-of-the-art facility.

The tournament is the brainchild of Army-Navy assistant coach Sam Eshelman, who organized the inaugural tournament — formerly known as The Coastal Tip-Off Classic — as a high-level junior varsity basketball event while he was the head coach at Sage Creek High School.

“We think we’ve put together a very competitive year for the first season with varsity teams,” Eshelman said. “We also believe it is a very diverse field, and whereas some tournaments will only draw from one area, we have been able to attract teams from multiple sections and different regions.”

The field is broken down into two five-team pools. In Pool A, the host school Army-Navy is joined by Dana Hills, La Costa Canyon, Rancho Bernardo and Temecula Valley high schools. Pool B includes Del Norte, which will host the JV division finals, El Camino, Scripps Ranch, San Diego Serra and Westview high schools.

Each team will host two home games and play two road games. The two teams with the best records from each pool will advance to the semifinals held Dec. 10 and the semifinal winners will play for the championship Dec. 11.

General admission to games is $5 and $3 for students.

This marks The Coast News’ second foray into high school basketball in recent months. The paper was a sponsor of the 3P Creme of the County, a high-level basketball showcase organized by one of the paper’s own, reporter Aaron Burgin

Eshelman said the paper’s engagement in high school basketball is exciting and will fill a void of local basketball coverage.

“I think it is tremendous that they are improving and increasing their presence in high school basketball, there is a need in this market for someone to step forward with in depth basketball coverage and promotion,” Eshelman said.

As for the tournament, Eshelman envisions being able to attract top teams from each of the participating regions and make it a destination tournament.

He says the beautiful location, proximity to neighboring regions, and Duffield’s gym are all big draws for teams and their fan bases.

“We feel the location of Army Navy is key in being able to attract teams from the city, from our northern neighbors, and Duffield Sports Center is a top-flight high school facility, so we feel it is a great destination for fans to come and watch a high school basketball game,” Eshelman said. “We’re also trying to get the Village of Carlsbad on board, because there are tons of places for fans to go have dinner and then come and watch a ball game, and I believe that is a big selling point.

“We are trying to make it a true community event, and we feel it would provide fans an opportunity to see quality high school basketball, which has great entertainment value at a reasonable price,” Eshelman said.

Top Players

Who are some of the players to watch at The Coast News Tip-Off Classic? We have your answers:

Richard Polanco, 6-7 junior forward, Army-Navy: The flashy point forward is one of the top basketball recruits in the county, boasting offers from USC, Nevada and San Diego.

Aziz Seck, 6-7 senior forward, Army Navy: The Northern Arizona signee is a freakish athlete and a formidable defender and rebounder.

Ed Fenzi, 6-0 junior guard, Army Navy: Heady point guard locks down opposing point guards, knocks down shots from mid-range and deep.

Parker Romo, 6-1 senior guard, Dana Hills: Smooth shooting guard and two-year captain leads a much improved Dolphins team.

Conner Nelson, 6-6 senior wing, Del Norte: Late blooming wing has the length, athleticism and shooting ability to be a next-level star.

Sean Birk, 6-0 senior point guard, El Camino: Potent scoring point guard made a splash in first year as a varsity starter, looks to build on last year’s success.

Eric Pierce, 6-5 senior guard, El Camino: Division 1 caliber combination guard is a matchup problem on the perimeter for teams.

Jalen Flanagan, 6-2 sophomore guard, El Camino: Lockdown defender is getting Division 1 interest early in his career.

Graham Cook, 6-2 freshman guard, La Costa Canyon: Foundation piece for the future of Dave Cassaw’s Mavs program, smooth scoring point guard is a D1 prospect.

Stephen Sedlock, 6-5 junior forward, La Costa Canyon: Face-up forward can shoot it from deep.

JJ Overton, 6-4 junior guard, Rancho Bernardo: Versatile utility guard is a two-year varsity starter, Division 1 caliber talent.

Beni Mokili, 6-1 senior guard, Rancho Bernardo: One of the more underrated guards in the County, Mokili is a lockdown defender and improved scorer.

Carsten DenHerder, 6-1 senior guard, Scripps Ranch: One of the more unheralded combo guards in San Diego, DenHerder can fill it up from deep.

Josh Moran, 6-4 senior guard, Serra: Big lead guard has uncanny vision and great size.

Quincy Ferebee, 5-10 junior point guard, Serra: Athletic, crafty point guard makes plays for himself and others.

Riley Schaefer, 6-5 senior wing, Temecula Valley: Big, athletic wing can score from three levels. Signed to Cal Poly Pomona.

Scott Hollingsworth, 6-9 senior center, Temecula Valley: Space-eating big rebounds and defends with a high motor.

Rob Phillips, 6-3 senior guard, Temecula Valley: Capable utility guard can knockdown shots off the dribble and catch.

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