The Los Gatos All Net fourth-grade boys team defeated Newport Mesa Blue 37-28 in the championship game of the NJB National Tournament in Garden Grove on March 10. Los Gatos finished the season 22-1. Photo courtesy of Nathan Sanders.

Three teams from the Los Gatos National Junior Basketball (NJB) program won national championships last month to cap the 2023-2024 winter season. 

Within the NJB’s top division, All Net, the Los Gatos fourth- and eighth-grade boys team captured titles. Los Gatos’ eighth-grade boys divisional team also won its respective national tournament. All of the championship games were played on March 10 at the Map Sports Facility in Garden Grove. 

Nathan Sanders, who doubles as a Los Gatos chapter NJB board member and co-coach of the fourth-grade All Net team along with Mason Powell, praised the players’ parents for their unwavering commitment and support.

The All Net fourth-grade boys team defeated Newport Mesa Blue 37-28 in the final amid raucous fan support.  

“It was pretty impressive because we traveled pretty heavy (to Garden Grove),” Sanders said. “All of the parents came and some of the players had extended family from the LA area. Even some of the Newport coaches said the same thing about our fan support, because we literally had three times as many fans as they did. And they’re literally 15 minutes away from the facility.” 

The All Net fourth-grade team—also known as the Los Gatos Soldiers—includes Aziz Khouzam, Sean Garcia, Parker Fanoe, Allen Xiang Hao, Liam McDonald, Solomon Petros, Greyson Wells, Hunter Sanders, Milo Pruett, Vonn Marshall, and Ronnie Fairley. 

Incidentally, the Soldiers lost their first game of the season before running the table, finishing 22-1. They went 14-1 in the regular season, 4-0 to win the Silicon Valley Sectional Tournament and 4-0 in capturing the National Tournament.

The Soldiers played Newport twice at Nationals, once in pool play—a 42-40 decision—and again in the championship contest, a 37-28 victory. Even though the pool play result was numerically closer, Sanders said the title contest was equally competitive. 

Los Gatos was up by six points with 45 seconds remaining when Garcia drained a 3-pointer to give the team some breathing space. 

“They (Newport) were up for a little while in the first half, so it was close,” Sanders said. “Both games were close with those guys. In the first game, we were up by five points with 14 seconds to go when one of their kids threw up a prayer and banked in a corner 3-point shot. But then we brought the ball up the court and closed out the game.”

Sanders said the backcourt of Marshall and Garcia was instrumental in the team’s success. Marshall manned point guard duties, Garcia played shooting guard and both ended up being the team’s top two scorers. 

“Vonn is a good ball handler, passer, 3-point shooter, moves well off the ball and spends a lot of time developing his skills,” Sanders said. “And Sean is a good 3-point shooter, takes the ball aggressively to the basket and finishes with contact. He’s crafty scoring around the rim.”

The team hurt opponents both on the perimeter and on the inside, with Fairley and Khouzam controlling the paint area.

“Those guys were our biggest post players and dominated in rebounding,” Sanders said.  

Marshall, Khouzam, Garcia, and Hunter Sanders—the coach’s son—have been on the same team the last couple of years, resulting in cohesive play. 

“That’s why we have good chemistry, because the boys have a lot of experience playing together,” Nathan Sanders said. 

The Los Gatos All Net eighth-grade team—coached by Jack Beibel and Cristo Ortega—proved clutch in Nationals, defeating a Centennial Hills squad that it had lost to in pool play one day earlier. Los Gatos’ 48-45 victory in the championship game came just hours after a 45-40 win over Lemoore in the semifinals. 

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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