Brett Callan championship: Sweet redemption for Casa Grande

By HOWARD SENZELL
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — A year ago, after losing in the title game of the Brett Callan Memorial Tournament for the third straight time, teammates Joey Rodriguez and Nick Sherry promised the parents of the late Casa Grande player a championship trophy in 2010.

Casa Grande's Josh Hayworth is fouled by Pinole Valley's Povante Hill during the final round of the Brett Callan Memorial Tournament held at Casa Grande High School, Dec. 18, 2010. Casa Grande beat Pinole Valley 65-59. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD)

Rodriguez, Sherry and the rest of the Gauchos made good on the guarantee Saturday night as they defeated Pinole Valley, 65-59, in the title game and then presented the trophy to L.J. and Julie Callan in an emotional locker room ceremony.

Brett Callan was 16 and a member of the Casa Grande team when he was a passenger in a high speed car crash in June 2004 and died from his injuries.

The Gauchos had to play inspired ball to defeat the more athletic, quicker team from Contra Costa County. In the first two rounds of the Callan, the Spartans beat Petaluma, 53-29, and Cardinal Newman, 71-53.

Meanwhile, Casa Grande had to go overtime to defeat Clayton Valley, 54-53, in the semifinals.

The Gauchos trailed only once (5-3). Chase Stafford gave the home team the lead for good when he drained a 3-pointer with 4:40 left in the first quarter. That started a 16-0 Casa run. The Spartans never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

“Getting the trophy and presenting it to the Callan family was definitely on our minds,” Rodriguez, the tournament’s most valuable player, said.

“Nick and I wanted them to have it before we graduated.” Both players are seniors.

Rodriguez and Sherry made their promise to the Callan’s after losing to Cloverdale, 79-55, in last year’s title game.

It was the first title in five tries for the Gauchos and coach James Forni was visibly moved during a post-game speech to his players.

“You guys played with a lot of heart and your effort was definitely above the norm,” Forni said. “We put up something special and it took a lot of grit to beat a very good team like Pinole. You should be proud of what you accomplished.”

Josh Hayworth, who joined Rodriguez, Sherry and Stafford on the all-tourney team, almost single-handedly thwarted Pinole’s comeback late in the third quarter.

Andrew Cox-Gilmore’s tip-in with a minute left in the quarter cut the lead to 43-39.

Hayworth responded by scoring seven straight, including a three-point goal the old-fashioned way with 1.6 seconds left in the quarter. The 6-foot-4 senior was fouled while putting up a shot just in front of the foul line. The ball bounced twice on the rim and then went through. He then added the free throw.

Pinole (7-3) would get no closer than 55-50 in the fourth quarter. Hayworth finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.

“We knew that to win we’d have to play our hearts out, and that’s what we did,” Hayworth said. “As good a scoring team as Pinole is, we knew we had to play in-your-face defense, take charges when they drove the lane and make the most of every possession.”

Pinole coach Anthony Geddins gave the Gauchos props.

“They outplayed us and just wanted this game more,” he said. “It seemed like they got every offensive board.”

Kairon Moore was Pinole’s top scorer with 21. Guard Patrick Dungo had 18. Those two and Carvonte Hill represented the Spartans on the all-tourney team.

Also on the all-tourney are Cardinal Newman’s Xavier McCall and Bobby Sharp, Clayton Valley’s Kunle Fashola, Alameda’s Sammy Allen and Novato’s Damien Smith.

In the other Saturday games, Newman defeated Clayton Valley, 71-40, for third place. The consolation championship went to Alameda, a 69-66 winner over Novato. Petaluma claimed seventh, defeating Elsie Allen, 53-45.