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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 10:11 am | Fair 64º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Girls Get Their Day on Court in Tournament of Champions

Santa Barbara's 26th annual girl's high school basketball showcase gets under way today.

There are a few traditions you can count on in Santa Barbara during the holidays: long lines, sugary treats and high school girls’ basketball.

The Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, or TOC, tips-off Wednesday, marking the 26th straight year Santa Barbara High has hosted the girls’ basketball showcase.

Thirty teams from across California will compete in the Gold and Green divisions for championships at local high schools.

Tournament co-director Aaron Solis likes the level of competition he was able bring to this year’s tournament and says teams come to the TOC to find out what they are made of, not to pick up easy wins.

“Coaches really know how good their teams are after playing in the tournament,” Solis said.

Santa Barbara, as host, will have its hands full in the elite Gold Division.  The Dons’ first game will match them with Palmdale, which went to the CIF semi-finals a year ago. That game starts at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Santa Barbara High gym, 700 E. Anapamu St.

Solis sees powerhouse Troy of Fullerton as the Gold favorite.  But there is no lock that Troy will take home the largest trophy at the end.

“Anything can happen.  Can they play well four nights in a row?” he asked.

In the Green Division, last year’s local champion, San Marcos, will try to defend its crown, but there is no easy road to Saturday’s championship game.

Solis sees St. Joseph of Santa Maria and Lutheran (Orange) as the Green Division favorites, but the dark horse may be just down the street at Dos Pueblos.  The Chargers (7-2) have had a strong start to the season, including a win over nationally ranked Pinole Valley.

“We knew Dos Pueblos was good, but not this good,” Solis noted.

The Chargers will open at home, 7266 Alameda St., at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday vs. Lutheran.  San Marcos’ first-round game will be played at 3 p.m. at the Thunderhut on the San Marcos campus, 4750 Hollister Ave.

Gauchos’ fans will have the chance to preview one of their future stars.  Emilie Johnson of Del Oro High signed a national letter of intent last month to attend UCSB.  The Foothill League Most Valuable Player has the chance to join the likes of Lisa Leslie, Marion Jones and Diana Taurasi, all former tournament MVPs.

Passes for the entire tournament will be sold Wednesday for $20 and daily passes are $6. On Friday, all children under 18 will be admitted for free. For more information, including brackets and game times, check www.sbtoc.com.

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