Casa Grande boys advance in NorCals

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Joey Rodriguez scored 27 points for Casa Grande. BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat file photo

Casa Grande didn’t get the home-court advantage it hoped for in the first round of the CIF NorCal basketball tournament. No matter. The Gauchos didn’t let a three-hour commute derail their postseason aspirations, blasting past Pleasant Valley, 66-42, in the first round of the CIF Division II NorCal basketball playoffs on Tuesday in Chico.

“We were just excited to play again,” Casa Grande coach James Forni said. “It didn’t matter that we had to drive three hours. We made the most of our opportunity.”

Seniors Joey Rodriguez and Nick Sherry led the way for the Gauchos (27-5). Rodriguez scored 27 points and had five assists and three steals, while Sherry scored 20 with seven rebounds and a blocked shot.

“Joey did a great job tonight getting to the basket and creating for himself or when he was covered, kicking it over to Nick,” Forni said. “They play really well off each other. They’re both seniors and are good friends.”

Josh Hayworth, a 6-foot-5 senior forward who averages 13.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, was a focus of Pleasant Valley’s defensive game plan. Forni said the Gauchos fronted Hayworth in the post, and though he was held to four points, he played within the framework of the offense and passed up scoring opportunities to create for others. Hayworth grabbed 11 rebounds and had four steals and a block.

Casa Grande (27-5) advances to play top seed Archbishop Mitty (28-2 and ranked seventh in the state) in the second round. That game will be played 7 p.m. Thursday in San Jose.

Forni said the team is excited to test itself against such a formidable opponent.

“Our boys were really inspired to win this game, in part because they wanted to face a team like Archbishop Mitty,” he said. “They’re a heck of a team and we’re going to go there and give them everything we’ve got.”