In an effort to promote unity, the Asian/Pacific Islanders sponsored a Labor Day basketball tournament called The Battle of the Blocks.
Three of San Quentin’s housing units played against each other in the event. North Block went undefeated in a four-game series, winning the final over West Block, 30-17.
“Throughout the year, the Asians, Islanders and Others community organize basketball tournaments on each holiday,” said Vi Chau, the event organizer. “Tournaments give all the guys a chance to compete and have fun. More importantly, it’s about coming together as one community.”
Four teams competed. Two teams represented West Block, one North Block and one H-Unit. The winner of each full-court game was the first team to reach 30 points. The H-Unit team failed to make the finals.
West Block had standout players like Rafael Cuevas, Phirank Kim, Kana Uch, Vadim Zhakarchanko and Zitsue Lee, among others. They were coached by George Lopez.
The North Block squad members were Juan Meza, Adnan Khan, Chau, Jonathan Chiu, Eddie de la Pena, Gary Vong, Damon Cooke, Alladin Pangilinan and Sa Tran.
The powerful North Block combination of offensive and defensive players swept its way to the final game, where a West Block team tried to stop them.
In finals, Meza cleaned up the offensive boards, turning his teammates’ misses into baskets. He finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds.
“The key to victory was Los (Meza) on the boards,” said Cooke.
Pangilinan added, “The key to victory was playing as a team, playing with passion and trusting your teammates.”
Cooke took command of the defensive boards, limiting West Block to a one-shot attempt. Damon led his team with 10 points and 6 rebounds, followed by Khan with 9 points.
Cuevas and Uch tried to keep West Block in the game. They scored 10 and 7 points respectively.
“They (North Block) set good picks, fed their big man, ran back on defense — they did everything and they were more hungry,” commented Uch.
Cooke added, “These games teach lessons of humility and learning how to lose gracefully.”
Phirak said, “I had fun. It’s all about getting together. It was a good day.”