Newman advances to Classic title game

ByHOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It will be Cardinal Newman vs. Acalanes in tonight’s championship game of the 29th Sonoma County Classic.

Both teams had easy games in Wednesday’s semifinals. Newman defeated El Molino, 67-35, and Acalanes took out host Piner, 65-30.
The title game is set for 7 p.m. with the Prospectors and Lions deciding third place at 5:30.
Newman distanced itself from El Molino with a big second quarter. The Cardinals put 18 on the board while holding their opponents to four.

The loss to Acalanes means this will be the sixth consecutive year Piner coach Mike Erickson will watch the championship game from the bleachers.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Erickson and his Piner teams ruled the Classic. Between 1998 and 2005, the Prospectors collected the title seven of eight years.

After the loss to Acalanes, Piner’s record is 3-7 and in 2009, the west side team was 9-17.
Piner saw Acalanes jump to a 7-0 lead and the team from Lafayette coasted from there. It was 22-6 after one quarter and 38-16 at halftime.
To Erickson’s credit, on the outside he’s the same upbeat coach he was during the glory years. On the inside, after so many successful seasons, he has to be hurting.

“It is what it is,” Erickson responded about the current state of Piner basketball. “Unfortunately, we just haven’t had as much talent in our program the past few years.
“It’s not the kids’ fault. They give it 100 percent because if they don’t go all out, they come out of the game. It was the same way during all those years we were winning this tournament. If the players aren’t as talented as the teams we go up against, we’re in for long nights.”

Acalanes was quicker and more athletic than Piner. In the first quarter, the Dons scored five lay-ups. Most came following effortless drives through the Prospector defense.

The half-full gym was a far cry from the crowds that packed the stands when Piner was an elite Redwood Empire team. In those years, fans had to show up at least 30 minutes before game time or risk standing outside because the fire department wouldn’t allow anyone else in the gym.
Back then, high school legends such as Treutt Sperry, Mark Thompson, Mike Vargas, J.J. Hammond, Greg Alexander, Ian Collins and Andy Mederios wore the maroon, white and gold jerseys.
“I’d love to have one of those players now,” Erickson said with a chuckle. “However, that was then and this is now. Give this current team credit, they are improving.
“We’re young and inexperienced and we have size limitations. Still, I’ll never quit trying to coach ’em up at practice and in games. And to their credit, they try hard in practice and in games.”
Calvin Gonzales was the lone Prospector in double figures Wednesday. He had 12 points. Michael Jackson led Acalanes (7-5) with 13.

In consolation-bracket games, Rancho Cotate defeated Eureka, 67-53; and Mt. Eden got the best of JFK (Richmond), 48-35.