Closing bow for ‘Evan Shoot’ Medina basketball tourney

10th annual event that honors former Sanger High player and basketball official will take place for final time on June 22

Sanger High’s basketball team holds aloft the Clovis Elks Classic championship trophy after defeating Clovis High by a 56-51 score on Dec, 30. The Apaches (11-5) rallied from behind with a 26-13 run in the fourth quarter. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published June 13, 2024  • 
11:00 am

SANGER — A dozen years remembering a son through the odyssey of love, heartbreak and remembrance will soon come to an end.

The annual Evan “Shoot” Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, June 22 at Sanger High School. For a sixth time, the event will bring together 10 high school boys teams and 10 girls teams to participate in game action as a tribute to the late Sanger High Class of 2006 graduate who died in a 2012 vehicle accident.

But the 2024 event will be extra emotional for tournament organizer Al Medina, Evan’s father and a long-time Central Valley sports official. That’s because it’s the 10th and final tournament to remember and pay tribute to his son; as he always envisioned it. The event took a two-year hiatus in 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al and Evan Medina made up the only father-son basketball officiating duo in the Central Valley, both working for the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association. Evan was in his sixth year of officiating and was a rising star, not far from starting to officiate college games when he lost his life on Sept. 6, 2012 in a solo crash north of Sanger.

The pain of Evan’s death never wanes for Al.

“When you lose a husband or wife, you become a widow or widower,” he said during a recent interview. “When you lose your parents you become an orphan. When you lose a child, there’s no words. I still cried this morning.”

AL Medina, organizer of the annual Evan “Shoot” Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament, is preparing for this year’s 10th and final year of the event to honor his late son. Evan, who lost his life in a vehicle accident in September 2012, was a three-sport letterwinner and former Sanger High basketball player who later officiated for six seasons. He and his father were the Central Valley’s only father-son basketball officials. (Jon Earnest)
AL Medina, organizer of the annual Evan “Shoot” Medina Memorial Basketball Tournament, is preparing for this year’s 10th and final year of the event to honor his late son. Evan, who lost his life in a vehicle accident in September 2012, was a three-sport letterwinner and former Sanger High basketball player who later officiated for six seasons. He and his father were the Central Valley’s only father-son basketball officials. (Jon Earnest)

Al carries many memories of the three to four years he worked games as a team with Evan, remembering one game in Firebaugh when the father and son had a recent argument and didn’t speak to each other.

“I told him pregame that ‘you can be mad at me coming and mad at me going back, but right now for these next two hours we’ve got to be on the same page’,” he said. “I’m blessed that I got to work with him so often, we went through a lot of wars together.”

Evan, known as “Shoot” to his teammates during his basketball career, was a three-sport letter-winner with the Apaches. Al Medina was inspired to hold the tournament as a tribute, and it grew from a simple event to one featuring 20 total teams. It became a popular in-demand summer competition for many high school programs.

This year’s boys field includes defending champion Sanger High, which parlayed last summer’s victory to a 16-12 season that was highlighted by a championship in the annual Clovis Elks Classic. The 2024 field will be filled out by 2022 champion Selma High, Reedley, Orange Cove, Fowler, Hoover, Mendota, Lemoore, Hanford West and Coalinga.

The girls field is topped by three-time defending champion Roosevelt High, bracketed in Pool B along with Dinuba, Selma, Fresno and Strathmore. Pool A consists of Sanger, Reedley, Orosi, Fowler and Coalinga.

Medina said the goal of the tournament was a simple one in honoring Evan.

“The main thing was to have a good time and enjoy playing,” he said. “Everywhere I go, I have coaches say to me ‘hey, you’re the guy that does that tournament out in Sanger.’ There’s no fee to enter. My sponsors come out and pay for the shirts and I give them to all the referees and people that help. I give them a meal ticket and feed them.”

There will be a midday break in the tournament from 12:30 to 1 p.m. to take a large group photo and bring teams and tournament officials together. And like in past years, 70-year-old Al Medina will be one of the officials blowing the whistle during games.

“It’s the only tournament I know that has boys and girls (competing),” Medina said. “The kids draw 500-600 people out there. A lot of these schools, almost all of them, have been here since day one.”

While Medina said that he had been asked about continuing a tribute to Evan with a possible golf tournament, the basketball event will halt after this 10-time run.

“I accomplished what I wanted to do, to be in memory of my son,” he said. “I wanted it to be a fun day, not competitive. Don’t worry about the referee or the game, just enjoy it. But it’s going to be very, very emotional for me.”

Admission to the tournament for spectators is $5 for adults and $3 for students, and helps defray the costs of hosting and running the event.

Jon Earnest
Reporter