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Photo by Brian O'Brien
Photo by Brian O’Brien |

The Bear River boys basketball team is off to its best start under head coach Duwaine Ganskie and is currently riding a six-game win streak as it heads into today’s Kendall Arnett Basketball Tournament at Placer High School.

So what has Ganskie a bit uneasy about his team’s chances?

It could be because the tournament is chalked full of talented teams, including Pioneer Valley League rivals Colfax (11-2) and host Placer (10-3). Or it could be that the team that handed Bear River its only loss this season, El Camino, is participating. Or possibly it’s the fact that the Bruins, in numerous attempts, have never won the 71-year-old tournament.

It’s a little bit of all those things, Ganskie said.

“I feel good about our team, but I never feel confident going into the Kendall,” he said. “It’s a tough tourney with a lot of history and a lot of good teams … Historically Bear River has never won it.”

Bear River (10-1) has been a regular at the annual tournament, not missing a year in the last decade, and will be looking to earn its first Kendall Arnett tourney title when it tips off against Woodcreek (6-7) at 5 p.m. today.

“Woodcreek historically is a very strong program,” Ganskie said. “They traditionally compete for section and state titles. Their record doesn’t indicate that this year, but they are very athletic and well coached.”

Woodcreek lost to Del Campo, 58-34, in the tourney title game last season. Del Campo (9-3) is back to defend its Kendall Arnett title and opens against Colfax. The winner of the Bear River vs. Woodcreek game will face the winner of the Colfax vs. Del Campo game in the second round.

In other first-round matchups, El Camino (7-4) takes on Union Mine (6-4) to open the tourney, and Placer faces San Juan (7-5) in the night cap.

If the Bruins are to make a bid for the tourney trophy this year, they will need Justin Beskeen to continue his stellar senior season.

The All-PVL first-teamer from a season ago is averaging 23.1 points per game to with seven rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

The only time Beskeen has been held under 14 points in a game this season was in Bear River’s Dec. 11, 61-54, loss to El Camino. Beskeen scored five while mired in foul trouble.

In addition to Beskeen, the Bruins’ early season success has a lot to do with the senior leadership of Michael Raigoza and Travis Anderson, said Ganskie.

“Raigoza’s floor leadership and intensity have been really been important,” Ganskie said. “He’s our stabilizer.”

The senior guard is leading Bear River in assists with 6.5 per game to go with 5.9 points and 2.6 steals per game. Raigoza has only one game this season where he had fewer than five assists and has turned in multiple games with five-plus steals.

Anderson, a 6-foot, 2-inch forward, is the team’s second leading scorer with 9.3 points per game.

“Travis has stepped up and filled the shoes vacated by Brandon Wooner,” Ganskie said. “He gives us that second option.”

The 71st version of the Kendall Arnett Basketball Tournament opens at 3:30 p.m. today and runs through Saturday with the championship game tipping off at 8 p.m.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call (530) 477-4232 or email him at wford@theunion.com.

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