Hounds finish fourth, Bearcats sixth three-day, eight-team event

ATASCADERO — Atascadero High School’s 57th Annual Christmas Boys Basketball Tournament took place last week as the Greyhounds (8-7) invited seven different schools, some local and some from around the state, to their gym for a three-day tournament that saw Atwater High School (15-0) walk out as champions. The six other schools in attendance at the tournament were Arroyo Grande (8-5), Paso Robles (2-11), Cabrillo (2-8), Selma (11-3), Montclair (6-11), and Bishop Union (9-5). 

Atascadero’s CJ Bell (22), contests a shot by Paso Robles’ Tristen Salgado during the teams’ Atascadero Christmas Tournament game on Wednesday, Dec. 28. The Greyhounds beat the Bearcats, 56-44, to cap off the first day of the tourney. Photos by Rick Evans

The tournament kicked off on Wednesday morning, Dec. 28, with a matchup between the host Greyhounds and traveling Selma Bears, who cruised to victory with an 82-57 win. The second game of the morning featured the other North County team in attendance, Paso Robles, who squared off with Bishop Union. It was a close game throughout but in the end, the Bearcats were able to pull off the win, their second of the season, 47-38, and set their sights on an evening matchup with Atascadero. 

“I think what made the biggest difference for us in the win was us being able to execute our offense,” PRHS head coach Chris Lopez said. “This is my second year in the program, so we are in a bit of a rebuild and have had some trouble running the offense in the early part of the season but did a good job making open shots and were able to make some defensive adjustments in the second half.”

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Paso Robles has already eclipsed its win total from last year, where they finished 1-23. Despite the tough first season, Lopez has kept the Bearcats’ preseason schedule fairly strong in an effort to prepare his team for the league season that is quickly approaching. 

Following the Bearcats game, there were three more contests before the rivalry game nightcap at 7 p.m. The first two came down to the wire as Cabrillo defeated Montclair 50-44, followed by a narrow one-point win for Atwater over the Arroyo Grande Eagles 52-51. The third game featured two teams that had already played earlier in the morning in Selma and Bishop Union that was not close as the Bears won by 26 points, 87-61. 

Wednesday night, the two local rivals tipped off and played a vintage Bearcats versus Greyhounds game that featured scoring runs, hard fouls, and a lot of grit. Paso Robles entered the game riding the confidence of their second win of the season, but it was not enough to lift them as the Hounds won, 56-44. 

“We have really been relying on our defense this season, we have been playing really hard-nosed defense, full court pressure and all that kind of stuff,” AHS head coach Augie Johnston said. “That was basically our gameplan against Paso, to try and keep it low scoring. Our guys did a great job of pressuring the ball and forcing turnovers, and I think that is what helped us win the game.”

Thursday’s slate of six games began at 11:30 a.m. and featured several blowout victories throughout the day, starting with the first game between Atwater and Cabrillo. The Conquistadors were no match for the undefeated Falcons as Atwater rolled to victory, 70-34. The second game between Arroyo Grande and Monclair also ended in a lopsided score as the Eagles won, 58-21. Paso Robles played in the third game of the day but were no match for Selma, who cruised to 79-38 win and punched their ticket to the title game on Friday night. With two losses, the Bearcats dropped into the consolation game for fifth place. 

Atascadero faced Bishop Union in their third game and played their best game of the tournament, coming away with a 78-44 victory. With two wins and a loss, Atascadero set themselves up in the third-place game against a familiar foe, Arroyo Grande, who won their third game against Cabrillo 47-32. Atwater and Montclair finished the slate of Thursday games, and the Falcons continued to roll, defeating the Montclair Cavaliers 71-39.

The tournament concluded on Friday with four games ending in the championship matchup between Atwater and Selma. Montclair and Bishop Union faced off in the seventh-place game, where the Cavaliers emerged victorious by a score of 65-48. The Bearcats faced off against Cabrillo with fifth place on the line, but it was the Conquistadores who finished with the win 48-31. Atascadero and Arroyo Grande, who are Mountain League opponents, played for third place and the Eagles were too strong, defeating the Hounds 46-33. 

In the finale of the three-day tournament, Atwater and Selma tipped off as the two undefeated teams in the tournament, and it was Atwater continued their winning ways and extended their overall record this season to 15-0, winning the championship 73-59. Atwater senior point guard Tyler Parr was named the Christmas Tournament MVP. 

Nine other athletes received All-Tournament honors with Parr, including his teammates Colton Dukes and KJ Ross. Selma landed two athletes on the All-Tournament team in Luke Machnik and Nic Esparza, Arroyo Grande also had two in Zach Soriano and Adam Silmon. Atascadero’s CJ Bell and Paso Robles’ Dallon Scott each made the team with Cabrillo’s Julian Reagan and Montclair’s Tafari Goode rounding out the squad.