Pacific Union boys join elite company with championship win

Submitted photo – The Pacific Union players celebrate their big championship in Crescent City.

A determined Pacific Union eighth grade boys team was crowned champions of the AAA Division at last weekend’s Crescent City Jaycees basketball tournament for just the third time in school history.

The Pacific Union boys defeated Pomolita 33-29 in Saturday’s championship game, following in the footsteps of the school’s 1969 and 2015 teams.

And according to head coach Jason Francis, it was the close bond between the players that paved the way to victory.

“They love each other like brothers,” the coach said. “They played with more heart than any team I ever had because they wanted to win for each other.”

Luke Lemke led the way on an athletic Pacific Union roster and was named tourney MVP after an outstanding two days.

“Luke was truly unstoppable off the dribble,” Francis said. “He’s explosive. Very athletic.”

Teammates Jeremiah Smith, Tanner Kees and Michael Manzi were also instrumental in the championship and each was named to the all-tournament team.

Smith, according to the coach, “had a phenomenal game” in the semifinal, while Kees nailed some pivotal 3-pointers and Manzi was the team’s lockdown defender and marked their opponents’ best scorer in each game.

Parsa Izodpanah rounded out the starting lineup and is also a good shooter, according to the coach.

“The reason we won is because they were determined to do so and we traveled as a family,” Francis said. “I’ve never coached a team like it. This is a group of kids that love each other.”

A roster of players that also includes Elias Gomez, Danilla Fanti, Talon Villarruel, Nathan Styles, Skyler Collenberg, Jarron Crandall, Eshan Mehta and Austin Cooley grew in their understanding of the game this year as well.

“Our team is very athletic,” the head coach said. “And the last time they played was in sixth grade and they ran over people because they’re athletic. But when you get to the eighth grade, basketball IQ matters.

“Our team really had to learn quickly, and their understanding of the game got better.”

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