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Manteca tips off new boys basketball tourney tonight in new gym
Lathrop-Manteca boys basketball
Manteca coach Jason Hitt gives instructions to his players on the court in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff game against Lathrop on Feb. 18. - photo by Wayne Thallander

With room on the schedule and a brand-new gymnasium on campus, Manteca High boys basketball coach Jason Hitt figured the timing was right to begin hosting a varsity tournament.

The first Manteca Varsity Booster Tournament tips off today and ends Saturday, with each of the eight teams getting three games in the four days. Hitt saw it as an opportunity to showcase the school’s new hoops facility and bring in competitive teams from the region. His goal is to eventually expand to a 16-team bracket.

The program will continue running its decades-old lower-level event; the 45th annual Block M Tournament takes place Dec. 26-28 and will feature eight junior varsity teams and eight freshman squads.

“I’ve always wanted to have a tournament at home anyway,” Hitt said. “I also wanted to play more competitive teams from the south (half of Sac-Joaquin Section). We’re already in the Central Catholic and Modesto Christian tournaments, so this allows us to stay more local and it lets fans from other schools come out to see the new gym and everything else going on at Manteca High.”

The Buffaloes lost two games from last year with Weston Ranch leaving the Valley Oak League for the San Joaquin Athletic Association. Dropping a non-league game gave him the three vacancies to participate in an eight-team tournament. He shared his idea with school administrators and the athletic boosters club and was met with immediate support.

Manteca (1-0) opens play at 6 tonight against Golden Valley (0-3) of Merced. Bear Creek (1-1) takes on Turlock (1-1) at 7:30. On Thursday, Mountain House (2-0) meets Atwater (2-0) at 6 p.m., with Liberty Ranch (1-0) locking up with Central Catholic (1-0) at 7:30.

All eight teams will play second-round contests Friday. The consolation final is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship following at 3:30.

“Atwater and Turlock have really good teams this year as well as Central Catholic,” Hitt said. “Bear Creek and Liberty Ranch have been competitive, and Mountain House is up-and-coming. It’s looking like a pretty competitive tournament for our area.”

Cash-only admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.