Two of the best basketball players to ever come out of Siskiyou County played against each other in a televised NCAA Division I basketball game 26 years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Two of the best basketball players to ever come out of Siskiyou County played against each other in a televised NCAA Division I basketball game 26 years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This winter, Chris Lane and Joel DeBortoli are both Weed High School basketball dads. Like it was when they played high school hoops in the 1980s – Lane for Weed, DeBortoli for McCloud -- local basketball teams are enjoying mountains of success lately.

When Joel’s son Jordan became a Weed Cougar this year, it connected a wide web of area sports history that stretches from Weed through Mount Shasta to McCloud.

Joel, his wife Tammy, and family returned to the states from Nepal last year to help their oldest daughter, Gabrielle, get started at Simpson College in Redding. Joel said Jordan, a high school junior, asked if they could stay long enough so he could play a season of basketball. With their local home just outside of Weed, Cougar coach Mike Carpine welcomed Jordan with open arms.

Carpine was the Cougar coach for two teams in the early 1980s that Chris Lane led to league and section championships and as far as the semifinals of the Northern California playoffs.

Only one local team has gone farther since, Joel DeBortoli’s 1986 McCloud Loggers, who won league and section championships and were undefeated until they lost in the Northern California championship game at ARCO Arena in Sacramento – one game short of playing for a state championship.

Back then, in what was Division III, local teams had to face much larger schools in the postseason, including the likes of Corning, Gridley, Cloverdale, and Dixon.

It was during a Northern California semifinal game against Cloverdale that Santa Clara University became aware of Lane, and he made the rare leap from a Siskiyou County high school to Division I after graduating in 1984.

Last fall, Lane, his Cougar teammate Randy DeBortoli, Joel’s cousin, Carpine, and the entire WHS 1983 team were all inducted into the Weed Athletic Hall of Fame. Lane’s sons, Spencer Hall, a senior, and Blake Lane, a sophomore, are both current Cougar players.

Joel DeBortoli graduated from McCloud in 1986 and played one year at College of the Siskiyous, long enough to earn a spot in the COS Athletic Hall of Fame. He then played three years at the University of San Francisco and 13 years of professional basketball, 12 of them in Europe and the Middle East.

Randy DeBortoli also fits into the category of best basketball players to ever come out of Siskiyou County. He was all-conference at COS, then played at UC Davis, where he set a single season scoring record and earned conference Player of the Year.

The ties that connect

Current Mount Shasta boys head coach Cliff Blakely was an assistant coach to Dan Bringle on the 1986 McCloud Logger championship team that featured DeBortoli, Cliff’s brothers Aaron and Douglas and nephew Terrence Pugh, all of whom have attended some Bears games this season.

Cliff went on to become the head coach for league championship teams in McCloud and now he coaches his sons, senior Daylon and sophomore Preston in Mount Shasta.

Current Weed JV coach and varsity assistant Bob Zalunardo, whose 2014 team went undefeated in league, was also the Cougars’ JV coach and varsity assistant in the early 1980s.

Randy DeBortoli’s brother Brad has a son, Cameron, playing for the Mount Shasta JV team this season.

Siskiyou Union High School trustee Margaret DeBortoli, Joel’s mom, said she enjoyed seeing a photo in the newspaper of a play involving both Daylon and Jordan after the Bears and Cougars played each other in Mount Shasta earlier this season.

It took her back to the days when Joel and Blakely brothers Aaron and Douglas and Terrence Pugh were always together playing one sport or another while growing up in McCloud. Another member of that McCloud 1986 team was Tim Cain, whose daughters Ashley and Kacey are now basketball players for Mount Shasta.

Aaron Blakely went on to star in football at College of the Siskiyous and for many years held the Northern Section high hurdles record.

The DeBortoli family tree has deep roots in local sports Hall of Fames.

Joel’s father Doug and grandfather Alford Linville are both in the Weed Cougar Hall of Fame. McCloud High School’s gymnasium is named in memory of Douglas DeBortoli, who was a coach and principal there and later served as Siskiyou Union High School superintendent.

Joel’s sisters Noelle and Kristen are COS Hall of Fame basketball players and, like Joel, have their jerseys behind glass on the Eagles’ gymnasium Wall of Fame, indicative of being named to the all-state team.

Joel and sisters Noelle, Jennifer and Kristen were all coached at COS by current Eagle women’s coach Tom Powers, whose teams have won three consecutive conference championships and were undefeated in league this winter.

Current Weed High School girls head coach Bob West, whose team just completed an undefeated league championship season, was a member of the conference champion COS men’s team Joel played on, as was Joel’s future brother-in-law Kale Riccomini.

Joel remembers how West “won the league for us. We had to beat Shasta at Shasta, and he got hot and made a bunch of threes.”

The Mount Shasta Bears team Riccomini played for in 1986 was one game away from facing McCloud in the section playoffs before being upset.

Eagle Hall of Famer Mark Acre, who went on to become a major league pitcher, played on the Corning High School team that lost to McCloud in a 1986 section championship game in Chico.

When the DeBortoli family gathers in the stands for Weed games this season, they often cheer on the home team along with former WHS girls head coach Peggy Soletti. Soletti’s 1988 Cougar Hall of Fame team lost in the section championship game that year to a McCloud team that featured Joel’s sisters Jennifer and Kristen and Joel’s future wife Tammy.

Two on television

Chris Lane and Joel DeBortoli never played against each other in their pre-college days, but Joel remembers being inspired by those Weed teams of the early 1980s.

“I always tell Chris the first person I ever saw dunk in a game was him,” Joel said. “The crowd went nuts. I had watched hundreds of games, but that was the best play I’d seen.”

It was big news for local fans when the second game they played against each other in college, in late January 1988, was televised regionally. Mike Carpine said he still has the VHS tape recording he made of that game.

Lane’s Bronco’s defeated DeBortoli’s Dons 69-65, and three nights later when Santa Clara won an even closer rematch against San Francisco, 69-67, Lane suffered an achilles tendon injury that ended his basketball career. He did, however, return to play one year as a cornerback for the Santa Clara football team, another sport at which he excelled in high school.

Joel said he enjoyed making a trip to San Francisco this winter to see a USF game and visit with Jim Brovelli, his coach when he played there.

Joel said he hadn’t seen a high school game in the area for many years until this winter.

His professional basketball career took him to Qatar in 1998 and he stayed there with his family until circumstances made it necessary to leave 10 years later.

Joel retired from basketball in 2005, came to the states to finish his masters, then went to work teaching sports science and sports psychology at an $800 million sports academy in Qatar, training athletes for the Olympics. One of his students there went on to win a bronze medal in the high jump at age 19.

When it was time to leave Qatar, Joel said, “God had something better planned.”

He and Tammy are now directors for Iris Nepal, which operates missionaries, a children’s home, a facility similar to a homeless shelter in Kathmandu, and a soon-to-open small Christian school.

“There’s a huge need for taking care of orphans in Nepal,” Joel said. Of the homeless shelter in Kathmandu, Joel said, “We pray for them, help them with training and finding a job.” He said their missionary work involves “going to remote villages and basically just loving people.”

He said they’re excited to return and have plane tickets for March 10, but their plans could change if Jordan’s team makes a deep run in the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin tonight in Weed.

Jordan joined a varsity group of Cougars who have been playing together for many years. Joel said, “He’s been accepted better than we could imagine.”