Gridley Invitational returns after second cancelation in 67 years

GRIDLEY — After just its second year off in its 67-year history, the Gridley Invitational returned to Farmers Hall at the Butte County Fairgrounds on Thursday night.

The GIBT’s history dates back to 1953 and has been canceled just twice — once in 1978 and once in 2020. In 1978 the school decided to change the tournament from the start of the spring season to its current time at the start of the winter season to avoid conflicts with end of the season championships. In 2020 the GIBT was canceled due to the pandemic.

“It broke my heart when COVID hit and I found out we weren’t going to Gridley, man,” said Archbishop Riordan High School senior Mark Barer. “I was very excited. it broke a lot of my teammates’ hearts.

“It starts with basketball, to the teammates to housing. You build relationships and it’s a great place to be.”

This year’s Gridley Invitational began Thursday with Sacramento High School and the defending champions from Dublin High School facing off. Five of the eight teams who competed in the 2019 tournament returned to face off at Farmers Hall at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley. The double-elimination tournament will conclude with the championship at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

One thing that has made the Gridley Invitational special for the past 18 years is that in traditional years all of the visiting schools stay with host schools of Gridley families. In 2021, however, just three of the seven schools visiting Gridley —  Salesian High School, Dublin High School and Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco — are staying with families of the Gridley community due to COVID-19 limitations. Administration from De La Salle and Campolindo did not approve players to stay in visiting homes in 2021 and instead the two schools are staying in nearby hotels.

Sheldon of Oak Grove and Sacramento High School are choosing to commute to and from Gridley each day. This is the first year players from any school are staying in nearby hotels.

“The people were very caring, they’re warm and welcome,” Barer said. “They met us, they took care of us, a lot of great memories with my teammates and I still remember it to this day.”

The Gridley Invitational housing director Dianne Wilkerson has worked for as head of housing for 15 of the 18 years the GIBT has housed visiting players.

“You are going into these homes with younger people, small people. They look up to you,” Wilkerson tells the players. “You inspire them to be a good athlete and hopefully to be a good person, so be your best. Not just on the court but off the court.”

Wilkerson has met players who have played college and professional basketball and other sports, including Milwaukee Bucks forward DJ Wilson and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Wilkerson has a message for each player as they arrive to the tournament.

In traditional years players often learn to ride quads with families, see trees and animals on farms and in some cases have a pizza dinner in an outdoor pizza oven. Wilkerson’s son was inspired to play basketball by a visiting player when he was just four years old, she said.

“I think that’s one of the best things about it,” said Salesian coach Bill Mellis, who has coached at Salesian for 24 years and attended the tournament for 16th years. “The fact that the hospitality of the parents to open their homes, I think that’s a big part of the experience.”

Salesian has has five wins in the GIBT, coming in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2017 and 2018.

“The key word is hospitality. I just think everybody up here is so nice and generous and they do such a great job with the tournament,” Mellis said about what he appreciates about the Gridley Invitational. “They think of every detail, from the rally that they do, to the housing, to the feeding of the kids. They film the games, just every little detail is great. There’s a reason they’ve done it this long so successfully.”

Thursday’s matchups

Campolindo 89, Gridley 17: Campolindo defeated the host school Gridley in both schools’ opening-round matchup.

Gridley fell behind early, as Campolindo took a 24-0 lead before Gridley junior Benson Tolman tossed in a floater up from the middle of the key. Gridley trailed 35-2 after the first quarter, but scored seven points in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Sophomore Aaron Kullar scored back to back shots, and senior Tyler Farr made a 3-pointer. Gridley trailed 50-9 at halftime and 75-12 after three quarters.

Kullar led Gridley with seven points and three rebounds and Shay Carr scored five points.

Aidan Mahaney led Campolindo with 19 points, Dyland Mansour had 16 points and Shane O’Reilly had 12 points.

Campolindo will take on De La Salle at 8:30 p.m. Friday.

Gridley will face Sheldon in a consolation matchup at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Sacramento 91, Dublin 63: Sacramento High School and Dublin High School opened the tournament on Thursday. Sacramento made a statement early against the defending champion Dublin, as the Gaels quickly moved to the consolation bracket after their opening game.

Sacramento’s leading scorer was Benjamin Roseborough who had 34 points. Mike Wilson had 17 points for Sacramento, Mark Wilson had 11 points and Sirmarius Jones had 10 points.

Dublin’s leading scorer was Courtney Anderson with 32 points, including 11-of-17 from the free-throw line all in the second half. Anderson also collected 12 rebounds.

Sacramento will now play Archbishop Riordan at 7 p.m. Friday. Dublin now faces Salesian of Richmond at 4 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the consolation bracket.

Archbishop Riordan 58, Salesian 44: Archbishop Riordan Riordan defeated Salesian in the second matchup of the day Thursday.

King-Jhsanni Wilhitte led Archbishop with 15 points.  For Salesian, Tyler Harris led with 15 points.

Archbishop will now play Sacramento at 7 p.m. Friday, while Salesian will face off against Dublin in at consolation round matchup at 4 p.m. Friday.

De La Salle 65, Sheldon 54: De La Salle beat Sheldon in the two teams’ opening-round matchup. The Spartans led 30-18 at halftime and held on for the victory.

Alec Blair had 14 points to lead De La Salle, and Tyrice Daniels led Sheldon with 12.

De La Salle will now play Campolindo at 8:30 p.m. Friday, while Sheldon will face Gridley at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

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