The First Annual Central Valley Senior Showcase not only highlighted the talents of local athletes Thursday night, but of the community at large. The inaugural event also showcased the community's pride and willingness to support its members as more than 700 spectators flooded into the Turlock High gym for the pair of exhibition games.
Conceived as a way to celebrate the players behind the headlines, it quickly became apparent, as parents and fans alike approached the Turlock Journal staff with praise and congratulations, that the Central Valley Senior Showcase had become something more. Athletes, students, parents and staff from the eight participating schools were together in one place, celebrating a common cause and bonding with one another. It was the definition of community.
The Showcase began with a lovely rendition of the National Anthem as contest winners Jessica, Erica and Maira Campos graced the crowd with their acapella harmonies before the girls game. Once the sisters were finished singing and the National and American girls teams hit the court there was no question that the rosters were truly comprised of the best seniors the area had to offer.
Heaven Simon from Central Valley High School and Cookie Cruz from Hilmar High worked the paint for the National team in the second half, netting seven and six points, respectively, while Turlock Christian's Hannah Sawyer got hot from the perimeter and sunk three treys. Not to be outdone, the American squad looked to Turlock High's Sianna Cruz to make up the difference as she also drained three treys. The effort wasn't enough, however, and by the end of regulation the National team had managed the comeback victory with a score of 49-42.
"I felt like we clicked a lot. At first we didn't really know each other so we were kind of uncomfortable, but the more we got to talk we got to know each other," Simon said of her team. "It felt really good to get back onto the court. I just gave it all I got because we kept reminding each other that this is senior year and this could possibly be the last time we play on the court, so I just gave it all I got because I knew that was it."
On the National side, Sawyer finished with a team-high 11 points while Hilmar's Cruz finished with 10 points, Simon and Gurneet Sangha (Pitman High) finished with nine points each, Abigail Bawcum (Turlock Christian) finished with five points, Alexa Oliveira (Turlock High) finished with three points and Ashley Ramalay (Denair) finished with two points.
Cruz finished with the highest scoring total on the American team with 17 points while teammates Caitlyn Duval-who arrived to the game late after pulling double duty as goalie for Turlock's soccer team-finished with eight points, Kinsey Pettigrew (Hilmar) finished with seven points and Yaneli Reyes (Delhi) and Natalie Andrade (Delhi) finished with five points each.
"At first I was really nervous, but meeting everyone and meeting new people-and they were really, really good-it was fun to play with everyone," Turlock's Cruz said.
Cruz led the American team in the first half with six points while Sangha led the National team with nine first-half points, all off treys. Reyes and Angelique Souza (Hilmar) also got in on the scoring trend for the American team with five points apiece in the first half, much to the delight of head coach Edwin Santiago from Turlock Christian High.
Bawcum also scored five points in the first half, but as a member of the National team her baskets were in favor of Ceres High's head coach Kristen McClure and not Santiago's. By halftime the American team led 24-20, but the lead didn't last for long.
After the game Cruz was awarded a $100 scholarship for her scoring effort for her American team and Simon was awarded a $100 scholarship for her scoring and assists as part of the National team. The awards weren't over, however, as Oliveira was awarded a surprise Inspiration scholarship of $100 for her bravery in playing through the pain of Crohn's disease her senior year.
"I had no idea that was going to happen. I was scared, I was excited and I was really happy that I got to get the scholarship," Simon said.
All warmed up from the girls game, the crowd in the gym was packed and humming as the boys warmed up for their portion of the Showcase. Though the game got started with an unfortunate injury to the ankle of Turlock High's Devan Bains, which forced the Bulldog to sit out the entire game, it quickly progressed as the two teams traded treys and perimeter shots to the delight of the crowd.
Turlock's Demsen McFaddin picked up where he left off at the end of the regular season as he lit up the scoreboard with 14 points in the first half for his head coach Doug Cornfoot. While McFaddin found the basket, Central Valley's Jaron Dickson played the role of distributor as he regularly dished the ball to his American teammates with no-look passes.
"I thought it was interesting and fun to play with a new group of players, just because it was more freelancing and not set plays like high school basketball. Our team, and I'm sure the other team, too, we all got along together," McFaddin said. "It's always good to play one last time on the court. I was reminiscing on the old memories of last season."
On the other end of the court, Pitman High's Branson Garcia led the pack for the National team with 11 points. Also playing for his high school head coach Harvey Marable, Branson spread the ball around to the not-so familiar faces of Egan Ferrar of Turlock Christian who sunk a trey in the first half and Daevon Brown of Central Valley who notched five first-half points.
The two teams entered halftime with the Americans up 27-25.
But just as the girls had warmed the crowd up for the boys game, the boys had unwittingly stoked the fire even more with their first-half play for what would prove to be the highlight of the night-the halftime three-shot shooting contest.
After the second of two performances by Backstage Dance Academy and a failed try at the shooting contest by Mikhaela Peterson, Rodney Petitt of Turlock stepped onto the court and stole the show. With only 30 seconds to make a layup, a three-point shot and a half-court shot in order to win a 32-inch Samsung Smart TV, Petitt amazed everyone in attendance when he won the contest with a buzzer beating half-court shot that whipped everyone into a frenzy.
It was a hard act to follow, but the boys were up to the task.
Hudson Harris of Hilmar, Travis Cook of Turlock High and Joshneil Sandhu of Ceres High scored points by committee with a combined 13 points for the American team while Jordan Riise of Turlock Christian led the National team in the second half with eight points. As the clock wound down and the end of the game neared, the two teams found themselves knotted at 51 points. That's when McFaddin took a shot from the perimeter and scored his only points of the second half, a trey to ensure the American team's 54-51 win.
"I kind of went in with an anything-can-happen type attitude. I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself and just went out there and played," McFaddin said. "It was cool that I could perform even after not playing for a while."
With his 17 points on the game, McFaddin was awarded a $100 scholarship as part of the American team while Garcia earned the National team's $100 scholarship with his total of 16 points.
Cook finished second in scoring for the American team with eight points while teammates Dickson finished with seven points, Harris finished with six points, Dominyc Silva (Denair) finished with four points and Chase Vann (Denair) and Nick Burt (Ceres High) finished with two points each.
Brown and Riise tied for second in scoring for the National team with 10 points apiece while teammates Parker Griffin (Central Valley) finished with six points, Puneet Sahi (Ceres High) finished with five points, Ferrar finished with three points and Anthony Fareria (Pitman High) finished with one point.