Some of the most successful men's basketball programs in the state converge on Allan Hancock College this week during the 53nd Annual Holiday Classic. The Bulldogs, the defending tournament champions, host a three-day tournament from Thursday, December 28, through Saturday, December 30. The Bulldogs welcome Cuesta, L.A. Southwest, Merritt, Palomar, San Jose City, Bakersfield and Chabot. All games will take place inside Joe White Memorial Gymnasium on the college's Santa Maria campus.
The action begins at 1 p.m. Thursday when Cuesta faces Bakersfield, the No.15 team in the Southern California Regional Poll. San Jose City College will follow at 3 p.m. against Palomar, while the Bulldogs will battle Chabot at 5 p.m. Merritt will go up against L.A. Southwest to close the opening day at 7 p.m.
The consolation semifinals will run at 1 and 3 p.m. on Friday, with the championship semifinals following at 5 and 7 p.m. The fifth-place game will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, followed by the third-place game at 3 p.m., and the championship game at 5 p.m.
The Bulldogs enter the Holiday Classic 8-5 overall. They last played December 16 when they came from behind to defeat L.A. Valley 65-62 in the consolation championship game at a tournament hosted by L.A. Southwest. Head Coach Tyson Aye's squad has won two in a row and four out of its last six games. Offensively, sophomore guard Shane Carney leads the team at 16.2 points per game and ranks seventh in the state with 5.5 assists per game. Freshman guard Glenn Jordan is averaging 10.1 points per game, while Spirit Ricks ranks third at 9.8 points. Overall, Hancock ranks third in the state by shooting 39.7 percent as a team from 3-point range. Guard Diego Lucas ranks eighth in the state by shooting 52.4 percent from long-range.
Last year, Hancock defeated Palomar 66-62 to win the Holiday Classic for the 15th time in the tournament's 52-year history.
Palomar enters this year's tournament 8-5 overall. Sophomore guard Jackson Strong ranks 12th in the state by averaging 20.5 points per game. Sophomore forward LaVale Coleman-Bell averages 17.3 points, while Matt Meyers averages 16.9 points per game.
Bakersfield comes to Santa Maria with a 6-4 overall record, winning four of its last five games. The Renegades' offense ranks No. 13 in the state at 84.1 points per game. Sophomore Jamar Hammonds ranks 10th in the state at 21.2 points per game to go with 8.6 rebounds. Guard Jonathan Murray is tied for the state lead with 6.3 assists per game, while Henry Galinato averages 9.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest. Bakersfield won Holiday Classic titles in 2006 and 2009.
Winners of four of its last six games, Cuesta starts the tournament 7-8 overall. The Cougars rank sixth in the state by shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range and sit seventh by averaging 10.7 3-point buckets per game. Sophomore guard Noah Saunders leads the team with 17.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Josh Wilson-Murry ranks second at 12.2 points per game behind a 39.2-percent clip from 3-point range.
Hancock's opponent in the first round, Chabot, is off to a 1-11 start. The Gladiators will look to snap a six-game losing streak. Freshman guard Jordan Gilmete is the team's leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, while forward Levy Deplush averages 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Southwest enters the tournament 6-7 overall headed into its meeting with 4-7 Merritt. Southwest boasts four players averaging 10 or more points per game led by guard D'Lano Beckles at 16.0 points. Isaiah Hawk averages 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Southwest has won three of its last four games. Freshman guard Isaiah Davis is Merritt's top scorer at 14.4 points per game, while Deon Steward ranks second at 11.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. Davis is shooting 51 percent from the floor, while Steward is at 58.6 percent.
San Jose City College comes 3-8. The Jaguars have lost three of their last four games, including a nine-point loss to Merritt and a five-point win over Chabot. Sophomore forward Jonell Burton is the team's leading scorer at 14.9 points, followed by Kameron Vales at 12.1 points and Kobe Foster at 10.7 points per game. San Jose is vying for third classic title and first since 1976.
Tickets are available at the door of Joe White Memorial Gymnasium. Tickets for adults are $7, and $4 for children and seniors. Hancock students and staff receive free admission.