Analy Faces Tests From Casa Grande, Windsor in SCL Boys’ Basketball

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Bigger but younger, quicker and seasoned, tall yet tough – the trio of top SCL boys basketball teams have varying strengths but share high expectations as league play begins.

Analy again is favored with All-Empire player of the year Max Fujii scoring and leading the Tigers at an even higher level than last year’s run to the section semifinals. Backcourt mate Eli Alcantar was Sonoma County League defensive player of the year.

Casa Grande has matched Analy’s non-league win total against often strong tough competition with All-Empire point guard Joey Rodriguez backed by a faster, more experienced team including All-League forward Nick Sherry.

Windsor has five players 6-foot-4 or taller led by All-Empire big man Tanner Giddings, adding a pair of football players plus a transfer who starts to make the Jaguars a title contender.

With both Sonoma Valley and Healdsburg returning solid corps of players, the Dragons and Greyhounds should battle for fourth. Petaluma is young and improving. El Molino hopes its best play is yet to come.

“You don’t look past anybody. Every year is a dogfight,” said Casa Grande coach James Forni.

Still, the tough, poised Analy team remains arguably the Empire’s best, not good news for SCL foes.

Scoring just over 26 points a game, Fujii is hitting 50 percent of his three point attempts and combining with Alcantar for half of the Tigers’ 8 steals per contest. Alcantar adds about 14 points an outing and both are sharp passers if defenses manage to slow them down.

While the Tigers lack the balanced scoring of recent seasons, coach Brett Page is pleased with improvement from several younger players led by 6-7 forward Nathan Molony-Benjamin and 6-5 forward Geddy Dukes, the Tigers’ top rebounders.

“We have a young team. We’re a little bit up and down,” Page said. “But from top to bottom their commitment to basketball is great.”

Despite a difficult non-league campaign including the prestigious San Diego holiday classic, Analy still won 10 games – and only had two home dates.

Matching that victory mark was Casa Grande, a senior laden group already showing ability to win tight, big games.

Rodriguez is one of the Empire’s top ball handlers and passers, playing comfortably on a more experienced team with scoring balance inside and outside. Forward Josh Hayworth is most improved, scoring 14 points and averaging 10 rebounds a game. Sherry adds 10 points and 8 rebounds per contest, and Rodriguez leads with 17 points on assorted jump shots and drives.

A league title and deeper playoff run are Casa Grande’s goal.

“We still have a long ways to go. You’ve got Analy to go through first,” Forni said.

Another more seasoned team, Windsor presents difficult match ups for league rivals. Using considerable height advantage, the Jaguars try to get inside for better shots and on defense force opponents outside and limit scoring chances.

Leading scorers Giddings and Shane Hardisty go 6 foot 9 and 6 foot 4. Kameron Richardson is 6 foot 6 and Garrett Hansen 6 foot 5. Rancho Cotate transfer Kameron Kiech is the true guard on the starting unit.

Not that any lineups are set. Windsor plays all ten, going away from the traditional eight player rotation, so the Jaguars also are deep.

“The kids have realized and figured out the guys that are going to get more time are the ones who are producing,” said Windsor coach Steve Kramer. “Our practices have never been more competitive.”

After starting with one win against four losses, Windsor won seven straight before a loss in their tournament championship. Getting football players into basketball shape has helped as has finding player rotations that work.

Another fourth place finish could be a good season for Healdsburg.

Back is All-League guard Joey Miller, joined by other returning starters Peter Nelson and Kevin MacLachlan. The three carry the scoring load at nearly 40 points between them per contest with MacLachlan running the offense.

A rebound by committee team, the Greyhounds have three players averaging more than 5 rebounds led by Nelson, who also averages about 3 blocked shots on defense.

After splitting their games going into league play, Healdsburg needs to find more scoring from other players.

Four year varsity player Dylan Severson leads a Sonoma Valley team lacking much varsity experience. The 6 foot 5 forward is a tough match up for opponents, averaging 15 points and 9 rebounds a game. Giani Romano is back at guard and Steve Mcgunagle at forward.

With playing time spread around, the Dragons are getting scoring across the board, but need more to finish strong as they did last season in reaching the league and section playoffs.

With a win over El Molino in a December tournament, Petaluma gets the early season nod between a pair of teams that have struggled for victories.

Returning All-League player Tyler Tuck leads a Trojans squad that spreads points around with Roman Jennings and Anthony Sequiera other double figure threats.

The Lions have All-League forward Tyler Elderkin back. Guards Joe Douglass and Mike Crowder are sharing the scoring load.