By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SEBASTOPOL — Analy, the tallest team in the Redwood Empire, scored more points on dunks than from beyond the arc while defeating visiting Piner, 63-49, on Friday night.
The Tigers scored eight points on slams while connecting only twice from 3-point territory. Six-foot-6 Geddy Dukes and 6-foot-10 Erik Poulsen had two dunks apiece and brought the near-capacity crowd to its feet with each one.
The game was classic David vs. Goliath. Analy has eight men 6-foot-2 or taller while Piner’s tallest players measure at 6-0.
Still, the outcome was in doubt until the final two minutes as Piner rallied after falling behind by a dozen early in the fourth. When Natu Hezchias scored with 3:21 left on the clock, the lead had been trimmed to 51-48.
At that point, Analy regrouped and finished the game with a 12-1 run. Poulsen got things going with a put-back dunk and Gabe Greenberg-Pines scored a pair of layups.
A mini-hook by Poulsen and two free throws from Josiah Sorensen set the stage for a slam by Dukes to end the game.
The win gives the Tigers sole possession of first place in the SCL with a 5-0 record. Piner is now 4-1 in league.
Analy was without its second-leading scorer Mohannad Halaweh. The guard, averaging 14 point per game, missed the game because of illness.
“I feel pretty good about how the team played,” winning coach Brett Page said. “Obviously, with the height advantage, the game plan was to pound the ball inside. I thought our point guard, Gabe Greenberg-Pines, did a good job of getting the ball in the hands of our big guys from the start.”
Dukes scored a team-high 13 and Poulsen had 12. Greenberg-Pines also finished in double figures with a dozen. Analy led all the way and enjoyed a 14-9 lead after one quarter and 34-22 at the half.
Despite being outrebounded 27-11, Piner was able to stay in the game because of its 3-point shooting. Natu Hezchias, Marquise Camp and Nebi Gedlu each nailed two and Keith Adams made one.
“For giving up that much size, I thought we played well,” Piner coach Mike Erickson said. “While Analy is big inside, their perimeter players are also top-notch. Greenberg-Pines and Josiah Sorensen can both score and dish the ball off.
“We defended well and showed heart in coming back to cut the lead to three in the final minutes.
“We’ll just keep trying to improve and get better.”
Hezchias was the game’s top scorer with 16. Camp wound up with 11 and Gedlu came off the bench to score eight.
Poulsen, the tallest player in the Empire, is improving with every game in his first year at the varsity level.
“I’m working hard on my shooting and defense,” he said. “At the varsity level, the pace is faster and the players are a lot stronger. It’s been an adjustment and I’m trying to learn all I can from the seniors.”
Analy has won six straight after going 6-6 in preleague.
Piner had its four-game win streak snapped and is 10-6 on the season.
The schools will again play on Feb. 8 at Piner. It will be the final game of the regular season for both teams.