McCall scores 34 to lead Newman to NBL championship

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After upsetting top-seeded Montgomery in the semifinals of the North Bay League tournament, No. 4 Ukiah matched up pretty well against Cardinal Newman in the tournament final.

Cardinal Newman's Xavier McCall takes the ball up court as Ukiah's Nate Henry, left, and Jay Ferrick, right, try to catch up, during the NBL championship game held at Santa Rosa Junior College, Feb. 18, 2011. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

With one soaring exception.

The Wildcats had no answer for senior swingman Xavier McCall, who scored a career-high 34 points (he had scored 27 on two previous occasions) and seemed to have about a half-foot of elevation on every other player on the floor as the Cardinals claimed a 74-63 victory.

“I just wanted to be aggressive tonight and help my team as much as I can,” McCall said afterward as he signed a basketball for a young fan. “Tonight was just scoring for me.”

Everything seemed futile against McCall, who scored in bunches. He had 12 of Cardinal Newman’s 19 points in the first quarter, practically all of them in the paint on a variety of scoops and fallaways. McCall added 10 more in the second, including a deep 3-pointer that banked in just before the halftime buzzer.

“He’s fast, quick and he jumps out of the gym,” Ukiah coach Bill Heath said. “We tried to zone him early. Well, he hit a couple from outside and that was that. We tried to draw the charge, and we wound up getting the calls against us.”

The Cardinals were up by as many as 13 in the second quarter, but had a hard time putting Ukiah away. The Wildcats, who never led and didn’t draw even after it was 5-5 early in the game, pulled to within 53-51 late in the third quarter.

But Ukiah didn’t score for the first 2½ minutes of the fourth quarter, and didn’t hit a field goal for nearly the first five minutes of the period.

Heath figures his team’s lack of depth was finally catching up. He doesn’t rotate a lot of players to begin with, and starting guard Miles Cajas, who averages 5.9 points a game, is out with a knee injury.

“With how short our bench is, we can’t afford to lose anybody,” Heath said. “But losing him really hurt.”

And yet Ukiah managed to make it a two-possession game, pulling to within 69-63 with 1:10 left. The Cardinals (23-5) rose to the challenge and hit 5 of 6 free throws, four by Bobby Sharp, to close the game.

Cardinal Newman also helped itself with smart ball control, turning it over just four times in the game, and only once before halftime.

Sharp, Newman’s other marksman, started slowly — he was shut out in the first quarter — but wound up with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists. Fellow guard Kenny Love had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Senior point guard Cesar Mendoza, whose all-around game might be as good as anyone’s in the Empire this year, led Ukiah (20-8) with 20 points. Nate Henry chipped in with 17 for the Wildcats, and Carlos Budar had 10 rebounds and 6 assists.

Both teams now await their seeds in the North Coast Section playoffs. Cardinal Newman is in Division 4, Ukiah in Division 2.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.