It's a traveling frenzy for Sailors

Been dreaming of a white Christmas? The Newport Harbor High girls' basketball team didn't need to this year.

Instead the girls are dreaming of the sun and waves. That's because the Newport Harbor girls' team left today for a trip to the big island of Hawaii for the World Youth Basketball Tournament 2006 Holiday Edition in Kona.

The tournament runs today through the New Year but you won't hear these basketball players complaining.

For the girls, the trip represents their longest since their travel to Alaska three years ago.

"I decided it could be something that would be fun," said Newport Harbor Coach Jen Thompson. "We went to Alaska about four years ago with the boys' team, so I thought we've done the cold, why not do the hot?"

The decision to take a longer road trip was an instant hit with the team.

"They were more excited I think about just going to Hawaii than actually playing basketball," said Thompson laughing. "But I did tell them we're going there for a purpose, a reason, not just to lay out and go snorkeling."

Senior Brittany Deyan was with the team when they went to Alaska and believes the trip to Hawaii has been a big motivator to the team thus far.

"We're a lot more excited I think definitely [to go to Hawaii] but it's still the same focus to win."

Oh, really?

It's hard to believe that a group of high school girls would be focused on basketball while in the popular vacation spot of Kona, Hawaii.

"Well, that's a good answer," said Deyan laughing.

The girls raised the funds for the trip by selling ads in its team program and freshman Lindsay Anderson admitted that selling the ads was easier knowing where the team was headed.

"It totally made a difference on where we were going," said Anderson laughing.

The trip has also become a family affair for four of the athletes as some parents have taken the opportunity to tag along with the team.

"This was an opportunity for us to go and support our younger daughter in her sport as well. Plus, why not go to Hawaii for Christmas?" said Teri Blackledge, one of the four pairs of parents who will make the trip as well.

But, while the athletes are looking forward to the trip for the obvious reasons of sun and fun, they are also looking forward to spending time with their teammates.

"We definitely come together on these trips and you learn a lot more about people and it makes us play better as a team because knowing [your teammates] outside of the court makes us play better," said Deyan.

Thompson also believes that the road trip comes at a great time and will help the team get stronger.

"I think just before league starts, it brings the team closer together," she said. "It gives us some different experience than what we'd get just staying here and playing. Mostly for team building, for exposure to different parts of our country and playing different teams that are outside our state as well."

And while the girls' focus will be on basketball in the morning, they will have plenty of time to enjoy the scenes in the afternoon.

"Most of the games are in the morning so we're going to do some of the historical [tours]," Thompson said. "There's a city of refuge we're going to go visit in the afternoon, a lunch cruise we're going to take — just doing some of the cultural things that they have on the big island."

The Newport Harbor girls' team won't be the only basketball team hitting the road this holiday season.

The Newport boys' basketball team has also planned a trip during the Christmas break. But these Sailors won't need to grab any sunscreen for where they're headed.

The boys' team left Monday for New Hampshire for the Elk Coast Christmas Classic. The team's trip outside of California has become an annual tradition.

"When I got to Newport Harbor 12 years ago they didn't travel on an annual trip," Coach Larry Hirst said. "I got the idea from my college coach who would always plan a trip. I just remember road trips were the times my teammates and I remember the most. We still talk about them when we get together."

While Hirst and his boys are focused on building memories on the road, they have gone about selecting their destination in a somewhat unique way.

"We try to find different 'Newports' around the country," Hirst said. "There's a Newport, New Hampshire and so we called the high school. They said they're small and they were afraid to play us, but they told us that they were playing in a tournament hosted by Keene State University and said 'why don't you try to get in?'"

The East Coast destination required that the boys' team left late on Christmas morning, but according to Hirst both parents and athletes were prepared to make the sacrifice.

"For a lot of these kids, one or two haven't been to snow," Hirst said. "We've been to Alaska and Minnesota. It's nice to see kids who haven't seen cold weather but also to get them out of Southern California. The country is very different east of the 405."

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