Most of the teams that traveled to participate in the annual Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions did not have to journey far.
Well, at least relative to the Cumberland Valley High girls basketball team.
Considering the tournament is in California, it made sense that the majority are from the state. But, Cumberland Valley High School is not from California.
In fact, it isn’t even on the West Coast, or the midwest for that matter.
No, Cumberland Valley traveled all the way from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania – nearly 2,600 miles away – to face off against some of the best teams California has to offer.
For head coach Bill Wolf, this type of trip is not something new.
“We really try to get the girls out every four years as a reward for them for all the work they have done for us,” Wolf said.
In the past, Wolf has taken his team to Florida, Delaware and other states for challenging tournaments, but never ventured as far as California.
While it is a reward, Wolf also takes these trips to have his team face different competition to help them prepare for some of the tougher teams they will face in the postseason.
Cumberland Valley is no stranger to the postseason either. Last season, the Eagles won the District 3 Class 6A championship and advanced to the second round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) tournament.
In this tournament, Cumberland Valley wanted to face tough competition and they got it. The Eagles first took on Brea Olinda, a 10-time state champion, and defeated them 57-42.
In the second round, however, Cumberland Valley ran into a nationally ranked Camarillo squad. The Scorpions tough press and great game from senior guard Alyssa Marin, who is a UCSB commit, was too much for the Eagles to overcome.
CV would finish its TOC tournament run with a win against Christian Brothers High School in the third-place game, however, 52-37.
“I mean there are a lot of good teams and to be third and go home with a two in one record, knowing that you ended up losing who may win the Championship or even if they come in second (is good). Those are some really, really good programs,” Wolf said.
Even the girls were pleased with the way they competed in the tournament.
“Coming out from all the way across the country, we were expecting really good competition and that’s what we got. It’s awesome to come out of this tournament with such high competition at 2-1 so I think we’re all really happy with the outcome,” junior guard Abbie Miller said.
One of the things that will surely make the Eagles better from this tournament is their adaption skills.
In Pennsylvania, there is no shot clock. So, in the first game Cumberland Valley played, the team fell behind early to Brea Olinda. Miller said the team was, “a little freaked out” by it.
But, by the end of the game, the Eagles adapted and earned the win.
Against Camarillo, the full-court press defense the Scorpions played worked even more because the Eagles though there was a 10-second rule stating that you had to cross half court or it would be a turnover. That rule exists in Pennsylvania but not in California.
By the time the CV figured it out against Camarillo, it was too late, resulting in a loss, but against the Falcons on Saturday, the Eagles were able to beat their full-court press and run an effective offense.
“We didn’t execute against the press real well (against Camarillo) so we talked about execution and how to beat it and it worked (on Saturday),” Wolf said.
Without a doubt, the Eagles will be a better team after leaving California on Monday.
But, before they do that, they will also continue improving another key aspect of their team: bonding.
Today, the team will venture out to Los Angeles to do a lot of sightseeing.
“I’m so excited, the Hollywood sign and everything. I’m really looking forward to it already,” Miller said after the game on Saturday.
“Honestly just the views in California, they’re beautiful like no matter where you are. If you’re near a beach it’s just beautiful or like the sunset over the horizon or like looking at all the houses on all the mountains. I’m just excited to see like the different terrain and different views that I wouldn’t get it home.”
Of course, while the team is happy to visit Los Angeles, that does not mean they didn’t enjoy their time in the paradise that is Santa Barbara.
The girls came a couple of days early and visited just a few of the sites that Santa Barbara has to offer like the ocean or Stearns Wharf.
“Man, I really liked going to see the seals. We all liked that,” junior guard Julie Jekot said laughing. She said that was her favorite moment of being in Santa Barbara.
Her teammate agreed.
“My favorite part. Definitely the seals,” Miller said.
Of course, there is another fine delicacy California has to offer: In-and-Out.
“It was so good,” Miller said with a huge smile on her face.
“We don’t have those at home. We’ve got like five guys but I mean their milkshakes are so good and the burgers were amazing.”
For Miller, it was her first time out on the West Coast and she loved it. But, not enough that she would want to play her college ball here.
“I love my mom and dad too much,” Miller said.
“So I’d like to stay a bit closer than 2600 miles away, but it’s beautiful out here and I won’t forget it.”
Without a doubt, the girls got a lot closer on this trip. And it is something none of them take for granted.
“It’s amazing. A lot of public schools will never get the chance to travel like we do. We’re super grateful and we love it and we are excited (to go to LA),” Jekot said.