By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
CLOVERDALE — Hitting 3-point shots with deadly accuracy in the first half, Cloverdale built a large lead and held on to defeat Santa Rosa, 65-50, in a nonleague game Wednesday night.
The Eagles knocked down 8-of-16 from beyond the arc while building a 38-20 halftime advantage. The Panthers made it interesting by cutting the margin to 10 in the final minutes, but could get no closer.
“The first three quarters we played as good as we have all year,” coach Steve Bernardi said. “We shot the ball well, we rebounded and played good defense. The fourth quarter, we tried to rush things and made a few mistakes.”
Junior Campos helped get Cloverdale off to the fast start with a trio of 3-point baskets.
“He’s our energizer,” Bernardi said. “He gives us a spark.” Campos finished with 16.
Shane LaPant led the Eagles with 17. Isiah Warren, who came in averaging 20 points per game, had 15. The junior scored only two in the first half.
“They were playing tight defense on me in the first half,” Warren said. “So, instead of forcing a shot, I passed off to my teammates.”
While Cloverdale wound up hitting 11-of-21 shots from long range, the Panthers made only 5-of-28. However, that wasn’t what hurt Santa Rosa the most.
“In the first half, we played the worst defense we could possibly play,” coach John McGill said. “We gave them open shots and they made us pay.”
Despite a stern halftime talk by McGill, the Panthers fell even farther behind in the second half.
The Eagles stretched the advantage to 58-38 with 5:20 remaining when Santa Rosa went on its only run of the game. The Panthers reeled off 10 straight points, helped by three Cloverdale turnovers. Austin McKenzie scored seven during the streak.
Santa Rosa was forced to foul in the final two minutes and the Eagles hit their free throws to preserve the win.
Austen McMahan, one of the Panthers’ top players, missed the game because of shin splints.
McKenzie helped pick up the slack with a game-high 21 points. Jacob Graves added 13.
The victory was a big boost for the Cloverdale program. The Eagles play in a small-school conference, North Central I, while Santa Rosa is a member of the large school North Bay League.
Cloverdale’s record improves to 6-3 while Santa Rosa is now 3-4.