Casa boys hold off Windsor in SCL tournament title game

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande’s Joey Rodriguez, nursing an ailing back, saw his minutes limited in the Gauchos’ first-round SCL tournament win against Sonoma Valley earlier this week.

Casa Grande's Joey Rodriguez came off the bench Saturday night and hit four 3-pointers in the Gauchos' win over Windsor in the SCL tournament championship. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

His back kept him out of both practices leading up to Saturday’s championship game against Windsor. And it kept him on the bench Saturday, unable to start the contest.

But when his team needed him most, with the Gauchos’ holding onto a one-point lead with 13 seconds remaining, Rodriguez stepped up, hitting his fourth 3-pointer of the game to put Casa Grande up four points.

The Gauchos held on, beating Windsor, 46-42, for their 10th consecutive victory and an SCL championship.

Rodriguez, who led all scorers with 16 points, said he knew he had to play through the pain Saturday.

“It was sore. I wrapped it, but I knew what I had to do and I went out and did it,” he said after the game.

Rodriguez gave his team a boost early when he checked in midway through the first quarter. With Casa trailing 6-2, Rodriguez hit two 3-pointers in a row to kick-start the offense.

“He missed the last two days of practice,” Casa Grande coach James Forni said of Rodriguez, “but he sucked it up tonight.”

Rodriguez carried Casa Grande early and late in Saturday’s game, but teammate Nick Sherry did the heavy lifting in the third quarter. After Windsor’s Christian McAlvain scored to tie the game at 24 at the start of the third quarter, Sherry scored the next five points, including a contested 3-pointer from the right corner that gave the Gauchos a five-point lead with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

Sherry, who had 12 points, scored all eight of Casa Grande’s points in the third quarter, keeping the Gauchos in the game against a Windsor team that refused to go away.

The Jaguars built a 34-29 lead late in the third quarter before a 3-pointer by Sherry — his second of the quarter — pulled Casa within two points at the start of the fourth quarter.

“They weren’t really respecting me on offense,” said Sherry, “so I knew if I got the look, I was going to take the 3. They still didn’t respect me, so I hit another one later.”

Forni praised Sherry for more than just his offense.

“He came through,” he said. “To come through on offense, plus play tough defense on (Tanner) Giddings and still have the energy to contribute is impressive.”

With three minutes left and the game tied at 40, Casa Grande’s Chase Stafford hit a 3-pointer to put the Gauchos up 43-40.

Windsor pulled within one, 43-42, on a basket by Shane Hardisty with 41 seconds left, but Rodriguez’s 3-pointer from the right wing put the game away.

Stafford scored 10 points for Casa Grande.

Windsor was led by Cameron Richardson, who had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two blocked shots. Giddings had 10 points and Hardisty had seven points with 10 rebounds.