TOUGH IN THE PAINT — Junior center Josh Lemley, pictured here during a summer league game, returns to lead a veteran Eagle’s varsity basketball squad this season. Cloverdale hosts the 54th annual John McMillan Holiday Classic Tournament on De. 12-14.

An annual rite of the holiday season takes place this week (Dec. 12 to 14) when the Eagles host the 54th annual John McMillan Holiday Basketball Tournament.

This year’s eight-team field includes Cloverdale, St. Vincent, Del Norte, Anderson Valley, St. Bernard’s, Willows, St. Helena and Credo. 

Cloverdale will open the tourney on Thursday, Dec. 12 in an 8:30 p.m. tip-off against Willows. The championship game will be held on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The Eagles are off to a 2-1 start to the 2019-20 campaign after taking two of three games at the Redwood Classic Tournament at Anderson Valley last weekend.

Cloverdale opened the tourney with a 69-14 rout over Point Arena, but fell to Bradshaw Christian, 68-48 in the semifinals. The Eagles’ offense erupted in the battle for third place on Saturday, running all over Valley Christian Academy, 105-48.

Leading scorers over the three games were sophomore guard Dylan Muller and junior center Josh Lemley, who averaged 10 points and five blocks.

Veteran head coach Pat Fitzgerald is back (assisted by Jared Hibelen) to lead an experienced group of varsity players returning from last year’s NCS playoff squad, a team that finished the season with a league mark of 9-5 and 15-11 overall.

Returning to lead the Eagles are 6-foot, 6-inch, third-year center Josh Lemley, one of the top big men in the Redwood Empire.

He’ll be joined by senior guard Chuche Maciel, senior forward Shayne Turner, senior center Tyler Ruys, senior forward Spencer Hoover, senior guard Adrian Gutierrez, junior forward Logan Axell, junior guard Andy Herrera and sophomore guard Dylan Muller.    

A versatile and athletic group, the Eagles should have the ability to rotate players with no drop-off in production, hoping to wear teams down in the fourth quarter.

“We return four starters from last year and have deep talent on this year’s team,” Fitzgerald confirmed.

Cloverdale figures to challenge defending champion Clear Lake and possibly Middletown in the NCL1 title chase, opening the league schedule on Jan. 7 at Lower Lake.  

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