Holidays send hoops squads near and far | Prep sports feature

With a two-week long break from school stuck in the middle of their season, prep basketball coaches deal with a challenge unique to high school sports.

With a two-week long break from school stuck in the middle of their season, prep basketball coaches deal with a challenge unique to high school sports.

The routine of school, practice, homework takes a hiatus during the holiday season, even with conference play underway and only a short time to fine tune a squad with postseason aspirations. For boys and girls basketball teams in the area, that means a chance to face unfamiliar and often heralded foes at national tournaments.

“We’ve always taken trips during the holidays,” Bruns said. “I’ve tried to make it so they understand during their tenure, they will have that opportunity.”

When he was on staff at Redmond, the Mustangs took a trip to memorable trip to Alaska, among others. More than giving the players an opportunity to remain in game shape during the break from a regular school routine, Bruns said holiday trips give team members and coaches a new perspective on one another.

His Skyline teams have traveled to San Diego and Eastern Washington in the past and this year will play in a Coaches VS. Cancer tournament hosted by Eastside College Preparatory School in Palo Alto, Calif. The tournament will raise proceeds to benefit cancer research and the championship team will have a donation in their name made out to the Jimmy V Foundation.

Funding the trip itself is no small task either.

Bruns said the Spartans will spend around $8,000 for flights, hotel rooms, food and other expenses including tournament entry fees. That comes out to around $570 per person for the 12 players and two coaches making the trip, a modest figure compared to other tournaments that can cost more than twice that.

With general fund dollars not available for such endeavors, the responsibility for funding falls on the booster clubs and ultimately the players and parents.

The team has three main fundraisers each season: producing the game programs, a shoot-a-thon where pledges are collected and paid off by players taking shots over a weekend and a youth basketball camp Bruns runs in the offseason. Players also spend time selling concessions at the school’s football games and car wash tickets. That pool of funds must not only fund any trips the team hopes to take, but is used to purchase warm-ups and cover other expenses not paid for out of the school’s general athletic budget.

The Spartans will be the only girls basketball team in Issaquah-Sammamish heading out-of-state during the break. Eastlake and Issaquah are scheduled to play in a tournament that also features a host of 4A Wesco squads while Eastside Catholic is slated for a non-conference game with 2A Sammamish.

First year coach Maui Borden’s team is scheduled to play in the Surf N Slam tournament in San Diego.

Jason Griffith, the coach for Issaquah’s top-10 ranked boys team, was part of the Bellevue staff when the Wolverines took the MaxPreps tournament in California in a field that included national powerhouses from St. Anthony’s (New Jersey) and Taft (California). Bellevue became the first Washington prep team to ever win the tournament and Griffith said the experiences on and off the court were lifelong memories.

“It was probably the greatest high school tournament experience I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.

Issaquah will remain on the Eastside this season during the holidays, playing in a tournament hosted by Bothell. While they won’t be staying in a hotel or spending hours together in airports, Griffith said there is still plenty of opportunity to bring his team together.

“When you choose to go locally, there are a lot of advantages if you’re willing to put in the effort,” Griffith said, adding the Eagles will likely have non-basketball related outings during the break. “I think it is easier on the parents to be around their kids more during the holidays and if they have another child, they don’t have to split up.”

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