NBL, SCL Boys’ Basketball Playoffs On Tap

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Undefeated Montgomery and Casa Grande are the favorites entering boys’ basketball league playoffs Wednesday.

Alec Kobre

The North Bay League games are Ukiah at Montgomery and Maria Carrillo visiting Cardinal Newman. The Sonoma County League matchups have Casa Grande hosting Sonoma Valley and Analy at Windsor.
What both Montgomery and Casa Grande feature are balanced offenses that score consistently with guards outside, on dribble drives and behind sturdy post players.
Montgomery (24-2/14-0) returning All-Empire guard Alec Kobre and center Ben Freeland combine for nearly 30 points a game and guard Zack Templeton adds 10 points an outing.
Defense has been the difference for the Vikings, who defeat league opponents by 20 points a game. Montgomery only gives up 41 points a game.
Casa Grande (22-4/12-0) is putting up similar numbers in running the table on league rivals. After several tight games early, the Gauchos won by double digits in seven of their last eight. The intensity is apparent on defense with Casa Grande averaging nearly a dozen steals.
Getting more consistent shooting off improved passing, Casa Grande has a trio of players scoring at least 10 a game paced by All-Empire guard Joey Rodriguez with 17 points and 5 assists an outing. Continuing a breakout season, Josh Hayworth puts up a double-double each game — 14 points and 11 rebounds — making more than half his shots.
A look at the remaining league playoff teams:
— Cardinal Newman (21-5/12-2): The Cardinals gave Montgomery its toughest tests. Shooting well is the key because Cardinal Newman doesn’t often outrebound opponents. Returning All-Empire guard Bobby Sharp and wing Xavier McCall score nearly 40 a game in the patient, pass first offense.
— Maria Carrillo (17-9/9-5): Waheed Kushkaki has become a consistent third double digit scorer alongside wing Michael Francis and center Brian Johnson. The Pumas have the rebounding to stay in games.
— Ukiah (19-7/8-6) After losing three of four to open league play, Ukiah regained its overachieving form. The Wildcats are small and like to run, averaging nearly 65 points a game. Six players average 6 points a game with All-Empire guard Cesar Mendoza scoring nearly 20 a game and Nate Henry adding 12. The Wildcats also are balanced in rebounding with four players averaging 4 rebounds led by Michael Starkey with 6 a game.
— Windsor (17-8/9-3): One of the Empire’s hottest teams, Windsor won six of the last seven including a comeback win over Analy to close league play. Center Tanner Giddings’ improved outside shot makes him tough to defend and forward Shane Hardisty also is a double figure scorer. Garrett Hansen is another skilled tall player with the Jaguars often playing five over 6 feet tall.
— Analy (19-7/8-4): Looking to rebound after losing three of their last five, the Tigers have Max Fujii back and a deep bench that can wear down opponents. Fujii, the returning All-Empire Player of the Year, scores 24 a game and makes half his shots – including 3-point attempts. Backcourt mate Eli Alcantar shares the passing and scoring load averaging 15 points. A better rebounding team this season, Analy have four players average 4 led by Nathan Molony-Benjamin with 7 a game.
— Sonoma Valley (10-16/6-6): While the Dragons are a balanced scoring unit and pass well, Sonoma Valley struggles to win against quicker teams. Sonoma Valley is deep with four players averaging 5 points a game including Dylan Severson at 14 and Giani Romano scoring 11 an outing. Rebounding can be a challenge for the Dragons led by Severson averaging 8 and Adam Kohut 5 a game.