The 47th Annual Sutter Home Invitational basketball tournament is taking place this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, at St. Helena High.
The Saints (2-1) will open bracket play against John Swett (2-1) in the final game of the first round at 8:30 p.m. The tournament hosts beat the Warriors, 82-40, in their Sutter opener last season and went on to finish fourth in the tournament.
Also returning to the tournament this year are El Molino, Roseland University Prep and defending champion Fortuna.
Rounding out the eight-team bracket will be several new additions.
“We have three new teams this year: Sonoma Academy, which is in Division 5; Cornerstone Christian, which is also Division 5; and Kelseyville is joining the tournament this year,” said St. Helena head coach Jim Gamble on Monday. “So we’re going to have some new teams and it’s going to be some great basketball.”
The first round games will be as follows:
Game 1: Sonoma Academy vs. Cornerstone Christian, 4 p.m.
Game 2: Fortuna vs. Kelseyville, 5:30 p.m.
Game 3: El Molino vs. Roseland University Prep, 7 p.m.
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Game 4: John Swett vs. St. Helena, 8:30 p.m.
Sonoma Academy and Cornerstone are both coming off impressive seasons. The Coyotes went 21-5 overall, 8-0 in the North Central League IV, and were the No. 11 seed in the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs last season. They upset No. 6 seed College Prep, 78-63 in the first round before falling to No. 3 seed Clear Lake, 69-53, the team that defeated the Saints in the first round.
Cornerstone Christian, meanwhile, was promoted to Division 5 after its historic 2018-19 campaign. The Cougars went 34-2 overall, won the NCS Division 6 section championship en route to also capturing the CIF Division 6 state championship.
They’ll enter the Sutter with only a handful of practices with their full roster, as the football team just finished a deep playoff run as well. Despite that, Gamble said, “they’re going to be a team to reckon with.”
St. Helena will enter the Sutter in a similar position, having just gotten its complete team together for practices at the start of this week with fall sports just wrapping up. Even being shorthanded, the Saints have picked up wins against St. Vincent, 51-38, and El Molino, 51-46, with their one loss coming to San Domenico, 69-33.
“We’ve had 16 practices and today is the first day we’ll have the whole squad together,” Gamble said Monday. “It’s exciting to have everyone together. The kids have battled. We’ve been short, undermanned, in all these games. We played a good game against St. Vincent and El Molino, and then ran into a buzzsaw in San Domenico. They’re just very well-coached and are really good basketball players, so it was good for the kids to play against such a good team.
“I think we learned a lot about our team and found a lot of areas that we need to work on. I see a big improvement just from our first game against St. Vincent till our most recent game against El Molino, and that’s the goal, is to just keep getting better every day so by the time league rolls around we can give teams a run for their money.”
If the Saints can get past John Swett like they did last year, they’ll either get a rematch against El Molino or face Roseland University Prep, a team that Gamble said “could be the best team in the tournament,” in the second round on Friday.