There are plenty of league tournaments going on this weekend in what is a nice precursor to sectionals next week. Perhaps my favorite is the Private School Athletic League tournament which is played every year at Alma Heights Christian in Pacifica. Certainly, its not perfect basketball, and it doesn't have the high flying dunks you might find in the Tri-County or West Catholic tournaments. What makes this tournament special isn’t the quality of hoop, but the passion and excitement for two very small peninsula schools with their chance at a championship.
Each game begins with spotlight introductions with a Alma Heights student doing his best Michael Buffer impression (and it's pretty good). The girls from Summit Prep and Mountain View Academy take the court with a nice sized crowd on hand. A very excited student section arrived for Mountain View Academy midway through the second quarter and it seemed to turn the tide for the Mustangs. Even though the team trailed 25-20 at half, you could sense the momentum building. A back and forth second half eventually ended with a Mountain View Academy come from behind victory. Yes, there were a lot of fouls, missed shots, and passes out of bounds, but with each bucket, the crowd roared louder and louder – some of the most enthusiastic fans I've seen all year.
The boys game was very much the same with a bigger crowd, louder cheering and even more passion toward the victory. Alma Heights fell behind early trailing by as many as 13, and by 11 in the fourth quarter. Somehow, though, Mark Bermudez's scrappy team put together a comeback and brought home their first league title in school history. At the buzzer, the entire Alma Heights community stormed the court—teenagers and parents alike jumping and hollering for joy.
The East Palo Alto boys had tears of frustration in their eyes as their parents greeted them on the court after the loss. But really, this team had nothing to be upset about. They push this game to the limit and showed they are a team to be reckoned with in CCS Division 5. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these teams meet again in the sectionals.
For some reason, this championship means so much to these schools, while other league championships around the bay are a mere novelty to the teams involved. Maybe it's because the only team to win a CCS title was 18 years ago. (St. Lawrence Girls, 1995). Either way, the atmosphere, the passion and the enthusiasm create a great tournament final. This year, Alma Heights and Mountain View Academy will go in the books as champions.
You can catch highlights of these championship games on Cal Hi Sports Bay Area, this Tuesday at 4 p.m. on CSN California.