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St. Helena boys basketball

St. Helena sophomore Fawad Muhammad gets fouled as he attempts a layup during Thursday's first-round game against John Swett at the Sutter Home Invitational.

The winter sports season is kicking into full swing this weekend. Both the St. Helena girls and boys basketball teams are competing in tournaments with the girls hosting the Lady Saints Invitational at St. Helena High School this weekend (Dec. 6-8) and the boys travelling to Cloverdale for the John McMillan Holiday Invitational (Dec. 6-8).

The girls open tournament play on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against Rio Vista and the boys open against Willows at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The boys are off to a 3-2 start to the season. They beat St. Vincent at the start of last week before going 1-2 in the Sutter Home Invitational over the weekend. They defeated Winters 60-47 on Tuesday night to earn their third win of the year.

The Cloverdale tournament should offer the Saints another chance at facing some tough competition with the league season approaching fast.

“I’m looking for to the Cloverdale tournament because there are some very talented basketball teams,” St. Helena boys basketball head coach Jim Gamble said before practice on Monday. “Del Norte, St. Bernard’s as well as Cloverdale and St. Vincent are all tough teams in this tournament. So, we’re going to have some tough games, which are all great to help us prepare for our league season.”

The girls hoops team won their first game of the season last week against Roseland University Prep, 43-15. Senior Citlali Garcia led the team with ten points and five rebounds while fellow senior Jovana Rodriguez and sophomore Daphne Steele each added nine points. In total, seven of the nine Saints who played against the Knights scored.

On Tuesday, the Lady Saints defeated Winters 51-23 to move to 2-1 on the season. The Saints won only two games all of last year.

“We’re getting better. We’re excited about this week because I think we can do it right,” said head girls basketball coach Darol Smith before their practice on Monday. “We’re going to keep adding. It took three weeks but we’re finally at a place where they understand what we’re trying to do. … My goal always in a tournament is try to win it, but also try to at least win two out of three games. If we win two out of three, it’ll be a great success for these kids.”

Smith said that his team’s improvement is “off the charts” from where they started a few weeks ago. Internally, the team has a goal to double their win total from last year. Three games in, they’re already halfway there.

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Sports Reporter