Compete. Hustle. Play as a team.
Those are the words Turlock High head basketball coach Doug Cornfoot has written on the whiteboard in the Bulldogs’ locker room for the team to see before every practice and game. It’s a message he believes can serve his squad well as they look to be crowned champions of the Frank Godinez Boys Basketball Tournament for the third consecutive year and 13th time in history.
The 47th annual Godinez Tournament, named after former Turlock Journal sports journalist Frank Godinez, gets underway Thursday with four games at the Turlock High School gymnasium. This year also marks the first time since 2019 that Cornfoot will be roaming the sidelines of the tournament. He retired after the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, but accepted an offer to return as Turlock’s head coach this past September.
“I'm excited to be back,” he said. “It's always a good tournament. In the past, we've always had at least four teams that end up making it to the playoffs. You know there's good teams competing here.”
Joining Turlock this year will be Oakdale, Modesto, Golden Valley (Merced), Johansen (Modesto), East Union (Manteca), Grace Davis (Modesto) and last year’s runner-up Venture Academy (Stockton).
47TH GODINEZ TOURNEY TEAMS
Colors: Navy blue and gold
Head coach: Doug Cornfoot
Notable: Cornfoot is back for another stint coaching the Bulldogs after a three-year absence. He coached the team for 14 seasons between 2006-07 and 2019-20.
Colors: Green and gold
Head coach: Brennen Pope
Notable: Davis is coached by 2014 graduate Pope, who went on to play for Modesto Junior College and Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Ore.
EAST UNION LANCERS
Colors: Red, white and blue
Head coach: Ell Dalton
Notable: In four games this season, the Lancers have only had four players turn in double-digit scoring performances, with Sergio Quezada turning in two of those (14, 10). Leland Crabb’s 17-point outing is EU’s top performance this year.
GOLDEN VALLEY COUGARS
Colors: Cardinal and gold
Head coach: Derrick Jacobs
Notable: The Cougars are searching for their first outright Central California Conference title since 2018-19. GV was league co-champion with El Capitan in 2019-20.
Colors: Purple and gold
Head coach: Chris Salazar
Notable: The Vikings have’t finished above .500 since the 2011-12 season. Since, they’ve compels a 77-188 record.
Colors: Black and crimson
Head coach: Pete Peterson
Notable: The Panthers are hoping to use the Godinez tournament as a springboard to their first league title since 2005-06, when they won the now defunct Modesto Metro Conference title under Donnie Wallace, and advanced all the way to the NorCal tournament.
Colors: Red and gold
Head coach: Jeremy Fields
Notable: The Mustangs open Godinez play against Venture Academy. The teams have already met once this season, with VA earning a 67-47 victory.
VENTURE ACADEMY MUSTANGS
Colors: Navy blue and white
Head coach: Eric King
Notable: Venture Academy averages better than 77 points per game and has scored 80 or more four times this season, including two games above 90. Six-foot-5 senior Mario Williams is averaging 26.5 points per game.
“It’s a special tournament,” Cornfoot continued. “I was playing when Frank covered sports for the Journal. It’s special for me, personally, because he used to cover my games when I played at Stan State, so I got to know him through all of that. Then his nephew, Frank, played for me. His brother, Mario, is always at our games. It’s good to know the family is still connected.”
Cornfoot won’t be back at full capacity quite yet, though, as he will miss the first two days of the tournament due to scheduling conflicts. Aside from being away from having to be away from his team, he has also dealt with the challenge of implementing his offense later than he would have liked as a result of being hired so late in the year.
“Knowing that I was hired late, it's going to take us a little while just to understand what I'm looking for. It’s going to take a while for them to get used to me, and for me to get used to them. But they’re good kids and they’re making a lot of progress.”
Cornfoot has been impressed with the senior leadership of forward Andrew Johnson and guards Nels Johnson, Mason Baker and Peter Wilson. Forwards Jeremiah Evans and Knoland Harris, who scored 21 points against Atwater at the Central Valley Tip Off on Nov. 21, are also expected to play big roles for the Bulldogs this season.
This year’s Godinez Tournament will tip off at 4 p.m. Thursday when Oakdale faces Venture Academy. Golden Valley will then match up with Johansen at 5:30, followed by Turlock vs. Davis at 7. East Union and Modesto will serve as the first round nightcap at 8:30. Games will be played during those same times on Friday.
On Saturday, consolation games will be played at 1:30 and 3. The third-place game is set for 4:30, while the championship game is scheduled for 6.