White River basketball takes championship title at San Diego Classic

White River took on Sahuaro High (Tucson, Arizona) to earn the 2A title.

The White River High girls’ basketball program made its traditional excursion to Southern California two weeks ago and flew home with a championship in hand.

It was a return to normal for coach Chris Gibson and his crew, who have been regular attendees at the San Diego Classic. That is, until a worldwide pandemic called a halt to both the 2020 and 2021 festivities.

This marked the 23rd appearance for White River at the San Diego Classic, making it No. 2 on the list of longest-tenured programs.

“It’s a great trip,” Gibson said after returning home. “It’s a great experience for the kids.”

The tournament also provides the type of competition that White River isn’t exposed to every day during its league season. In San Diego, Gibson said, “we play against the speed and size that we don’t always see here.”

Gibson and Co. headed south June 15, had a day to prepare for the rigors of the Classic and enjoy a bit of what San Diego has to offer, then won five games in three days to capture the Class 2 championship. Three of those victories were of the double-digit variety, as White River outscored its five opponents 214-144.

Making up the championship roster were Ally Green, Josie Jacobs, Ella Klemkow, Dakota Sprouse, Vivian Kingston, Jadyn Olson, Mackenzie Hinson, Morgan Greene, Lexie Banks and Ava Bright.

White River opened play June 17 against Poway High of California and defeated the Titans 52-29 on the court at Cuyamaca College. Advancing in the winners’ bracket, the Buckley squad next defeated St. Mary’s (Stockton, California) 46-21 on June 18. That brought a second game on the 18th and resulted in a 31-29 victory over Seton Catholic of Arizona.

Moving on to Sunday’s semifinals, White River slipped past Notre Dame High of Los Angeles 42-39 to advance to the championship game, slated for later that day, still on the Cuyamaca campus. In the finale, White River thumped Sahuaro High (Tucson, Arizona) 43-26 for the 2A title.

Gibson also took a junior varsity squad to the Classic. Making up that team were Taylor Wilson, Sophie Ross, Alle Klemkow, Addy Stone, Ellie Salvati, Hailey Andrew, Sophia Bush, Soleil Bianchi, Emma Voellger, Gracie Gray and Emma Tomlinson.

The JV group nearly notched a championship of its own, winning three straight games to reach the finals. A tourney title wasn’t in the cards, however, as White River’s JV squad fell in the finale 22-20 to West Hills.

The JV group had opened the tournament June 18 with a 49-25 victory over San Pasqual followed by a 54-11 thumping of El Capitan. June 19 brought a 33-23 win against the NOC Lady Stars, sending White River into the title contest.