NBL Boys’ Basketball Opens League Play

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

The first month of the prep boys’ basketball campaign revealed that Montgomery and Cardinal Newman should again command the North Bay League with Ukiah on their heels as regular season games begin Wednesday.
With the Vikings only loss coming at a premier San Diego tournament where they won the consolation title, Montgomery is the early favorite for the NBL title.
Four returning starters, including All-Empire players Alec Kobre and Ben Freeland, give Montgomery experience teams need for the rigors of league games and playoff contests. All-League point guard Quentin Mendoza provides steady leadership and is one of the league’s top defenders.
While the Vikings — 10-1 — are scoring nearly 70 points a game, the team’s strength is defense, yielding only 50 per contest.
After winning the league tournament title and a pair of North Coast Section games a year ago, Montgomery could make a deep post season run this time.
“Our goal is simple. We want to try and be as good as we can be,” said Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie.
Defending regular season league champion Cardinal Newman will be formidable again with co-players of the year Xavier McCall and Bobby Sharp back to lead the Cardinals.
Outscoring opponents by 20 points a game, Cardinal Newman has shown an ability to control contests on both ends of the court. Although a young team, the Cardinals — 9-3 — come at you with waves of players.
“I think we have pretty good depth. We need it as teams are focused in on our two scorers,” said Cardinal Newman coach Tom Bonfigli.
Ukiah returns All-Empire guard Cesar Mendoza with Nate Henry leading a small but tough group of forwards.
For the Wildcats to win, they need to speed up games and keep opponents from scoring too easily near the basket. So far so good for Ukiah at 11-1 entering league play.
“We play pretty good defense and shoot well,” said Ukiah coach Bill Heath. “The more possessions we have the better chance we have.”
Led by All-Empire player Michael Francis, Maria Carrillo — 6-4 — is an experienced squad that can score.
Rancho Cotate — 6-6 — plays hard and has a rugged defense with guard Tristan Eaken and center Ricky Garcia the top point producers.
Piner appears to be the best of the rest as the Prospectors face the challenge of making the league playoffs as they did a year ago. Cal Gonzalez and Skyler Ramos have paced Piner, 4-7 on the season.
With only three wins between them, Elsie Allen and Santa Rosa look to improve in league play.
Scoring consistently has been the hurdle for the Lobos with Jennaty Him and Parik Tep the team’s best shooters.
To have a chance of winning, Santa Rosa must defend better as the Panthers have in recent games.
Ukiah visits Cardinal Newman Wednesday for the best matchup in week one. Montgomery hosts Elsie Allen, Piner is at Maria Carrillo, and Santa Rosa entertains Rancho Cotate. All games times are 7:30 p.m.