If the calendar has shifted to December, that means several things in Gridley.

First, winter - or what passes for winter in our area - is on its way.

And secondly, it's time for a beloved Gridley tradition: The Gridley Invitational Basketball Tournament.

2017 will be the 64th year for the annual high school hoops showcase, which brings some of the top teams in Northern California to Gridley for three days of fun, basketball, and fellowship. 

Because at its core, the GIBT is about more than basketball: it's about bringing people together, bridging cultural divides, and giving high school kids some new experiences - and perhaps building friendships that will endure long after basketball.

It dates back to 1953, when Gridley teacher and coach John Valentino conceived the idea of a school activity that brought together people from differing social, economic and geographical segments of northern California.

The tournament has been held every year but 1978 since, and continued to grow after Valentino’s passing in 1984.

The tournament was a post-season affair from 1953-77, where it competed with the CIF’s Tournament of Champions. 

The GIBT is well-known as one of the most competitive, prestigious hoop tournaments in northern California. It usually attracts several Top 10 teams.

This year is no different.

The 2017 tournament field includes defending champion Woodcreek, Salesian, Capital Christian, Dublin, Archbishop Mitty, Folsom, Sheldon, and of course, Gridley.

Tournament Director Chris McIntire, principal at McKinley Elementary in Gridley, has been involved with GIBT planning for more than 18 years. 

it's a year-round affair, McIntire said.

Action gets under way on Thursday at 4 p.m. with Capital Christian taking on Folsom. Sheldon and Woodcreek meet at 5:30 p.m., with Gridley facing Salesian at 7 p.m.The first night's action wraps up at 8:30 p.m. with Archbishop Mitty and Dublin