Cardinal Newman, El Molino, Piner advance


For Mt. Eden basketball coach Aaron O’Brien, Tuesday was a Murphy’s Law kind of day.

Cardinal Newman's Kenny Love drives past a Mt. Eden defender. Photo by Beth Schlanger / The Press Democrat

It started when O’Brien left his Hayward home nearly three hours before his team was to tip-off against Cardinal Newman in a Sonoma County Classic first-round game at Piner High. Stuck in traffic because of rain, he missed the opening tip-off.

Then less than two minutes after making his way to his team’s bench, his suit soaked after dashing from the parking lot into the gym, he was whistled for a technical by referee Chris Fabela.
Unfortunately for O’Brien, the Murphy’s Law saying that “If anything can go wrong, it will” was still hanging over his head.

O’Brien watched his team fall behind 17-1 after one quarter and it got worse. The Monarchs, who came in with a 4-3 record, didn’t score their first field goal until 3:30 before halftime. By then, Cardinal Newman led 25-3.

With Newman coach Tom Bonfigli substituting liberally, the teams played even in the second half and the final score was 51-30.
Despite all the adversity, O’Brien was good-natured after the game.

“It usually takes an hour and twenty minutes to get from Hayward to Piner,” he said. “I thought I left in plenty of time and would get to the gym an hour before our game. The traffic was murder because of the rain.”

As for the technical, O’Brien said he never got an explanation.

“It was the first one I’ve gotten in 13 years of coaching,” he said. “I didn’t swear, I was up moving around, just yelling trying to get my players going.” He did get a warning to calm down before the technical was assessed.

All the Mt. Eden players were late arriving, most walking into the gym minutes before the start. It was obvious they weren’t ready to play when the referees started the game. Still, with four games scheduled in the opening round, tournament officials were reluctant to delay the start more than a couple of minutes.

“Newman took it to us,” O’Brien said. “They’re better than us. We would’ve given them a better game had everyone been able to get situated before the game, but we weren’t going to beat them.”

Bonfigli was aware his team’s opponent and coach were late arriving and he pointed it out to his team.

“I told the kids in the huddle before the tip-off that we have a great opportunity to jump on them early,” he said. “We were able to push the tempo and attack the basket.
“Also we played good defense, which is something we’re working on improving. We owned the defensive board in the first half.”

Bobby Sharp had 17 points at halftime and Xavier McCall chipped in with nine. Sharp played sparingly in the second half and wound up with 21. McCall finished with 14.

In today’s second round, Newman plays El Molino at 7 p.m. The Lions defeated JFK (Richmond), 46-39.

“It was our best effort of the year,” El Mo coach Eugene Pat-terson said. “Our defense in the fourth quarter was outstanding.”
JFK scored only three points in the final quarter while the Lions tallied 11.

Kyle Brinson and Mike Crowder led the way with 11 each. Crowder had three 3-pointers in the third as El Molino started coming back from a five-point halftime deficit.
Newman defeated El Molino, 81-39, on Nov. 27. It was the season opener for both teams.
In other opening-round games, Acalanes defeated Rancho Cotate, 71-44, and Piner got revenge on Eureka, 64-53.

On Dec. 11 in the Arcata Tournament, Eureka beat the Prospectors 58-56.
“We’re definitely improving,” Piner coach Mike Erickson said. “We got up by 23 in the third quarter and they made a little run at the end.
“Our first half was excellent. We scored 38 and led by 18.”

Skyler Ramos led Piner in scoring with 21. Cal Gonzales had 15 points, including four 3-point goals. The senior center also had 10 rebounds.
Tonight in the winner’s bracket, Cardinal Newman and El Molino play at 7 p.m. followed by Piner and Acalanes at 8:30.

In the consolation bracket, Mt. Eden plays JFK at 4 p.m. followed at 5:30 by Rancho Cotate against Eureka.