Ukiah rally beats Carrillo, 65-61

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ukiah, down by 13 points late in the first half, rallied to defeat host Maria Carrillo, 65-61, in a North Bay League boys basketball game Monday night.

It was the second year in a row the Wildcats had traveled south and overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to defeat the Pumas.

“Last year we were down 15 at the half and won,” Ukiah coach Bill Heath said. “I’ve been coaching at Ukiah 30 years and through the years I’ve watched my team blow big leads and lose and come back and win games when we were down big. Coming back is a whole lot more enjoyable than the other way around.”

Carrillo started the game with 6-foot-5 Brian Johnson at center and 6-foot-3 Michael Francis and 6-foot-2 Jake Sweeting at forwards.
The Wildcats countered with a front-line of 6-foot-2 Michael Starkey, 6-foot-2 Nate Henry and 5-foot-9 Miles Cajas.

In the end, size didn’t matter. Down 31-18 at one point and 34-23 at halftime, Ukiah fought back to take its first lead, 40-39, with 2:15 remaining in the third.
Cajas gave his team the lead for good at 53-52. It was still a two-point game with two minutes remaining, but six free throws in the final 75 seconds locked up the victory for the Wildcats.
Ukiah enjoyed a huge edge at the free-throw line, making 22-of-31 while the Pumas cashed in 8-of-15.

Starkey provided the spark for the Wildcats as all 13 of his points came after intermission.

“It was my best game of the year,” he said. “My shooting was on and I thought I played good defense and even got a few rebounds.”
Starkey credited the rally with his team’s increased intensity.

“We’d been down before and come back and we didn’t feel we were out of the game even though we were down big at the half,” the junior said. “We needed a spark and we made a couple of steals and that got our confidence up.
“This was our most satisfying win of the year.”
Pumas coach Jerry Deakins was feeling anything but satisfied.

“Needless to say, I’m disappointed,” he said. “We had them down in the first half and didn’t put them away.
“Ukiah finished the game and we didn’t. They were more focused and had intensity when it counted. We didn’t take advantage of our height inside. We settled for a lot of outside shots.”

The Wildcats are 4-3 as the NBL reached its halfway mark. Overall, they are 15-4.
Carrillo is also 4-3 in league, with a 12-7 overall record.
Cesar Mendoza, who came in averaging 19 points per game, finished with 17. Now a senior, the guard’s scoring production has increased each season. He averaged six as a sophomore and 12 as a junior.

Henry had 14. Starkey’s 13 was five above his average.
Michael Francis led the Pumas with 24. Brian Johnson was next with 12.