By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
No lead is safe when Cardinal Newman and Montgomery battle in boys’ basketball. On Monday night, the Cardinals proved it by overcoming a great Vikings effort before a boisterous crowd at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Running off a dozen unanswered points over the third and fourth quarters, Cardinal Newman surged back and later regained the lead, before holding off Montgomery down the stretch to win, 57-54. Pressure defense sparked the rally with the Cardinals’ guards providing the bulk of the scoring.
“It was looking pretty bad. We just had to give the extra effort,” said Kenny Love, who hit for seven of his 15 points in the final period. “It was a total team effort.”
Losing a big lead and the game hurts, yet Montgomery players said the Vikings will be stronger as a result. During the first two periods, the Vikings played one of their best halves of the season at both ends of the floor.
“We had to play the second half like it was 0-0 and not like we were ahead. We just weren’t mentally prepared,” said Tyler Newman, the Vikings’ lone senior starter. “This definitely taught us a lesson.”
Another tight contest was expected as Montgomery sought to turn the tables on Cardinal Newman after the Cardinals took this season’s first North Bay League meeting between the two teams. Monday’s win kept Cardinal Newman undefeated in league play and ensured the Cardinals at least a share of the league crown with two regular-season games remaining. Montgomery’s only two NBL losses are to the Cardinals.
Both games were held at SRJC to handle big crowds. Another packed house added energy to an already strong rivalry between the two programs.
Montgomery was the team with the edge early. Patience and disciplined passing led to easy shots around the basket and the Vikings were steady as well from 3-point range.
Eight different Vikings scored in the first half with Alec Raven getting eight of his 18 on the night.
Also a deep-scoring squad, Cardinal Newman had difficulty finding gaps in Montgomery’s man-to-man defense. When the Vikings weren’t denying entry passes to the Cardinals’ best shooters, Montgomery was double teaming and preventing second-chance opportunities.
The largest Vikings lead was 18 points, the last at 39-21 in the third quarter. Cardinal Newman worked the deficit to eight points by the end of the period with Corey Hammell tallying 12 of his 15 points heading into the final quarter.
A step quicker than in the first half, Cardinal Newman also played a more physical brand of defense. While the Cardinals’ foul trouble put Montgomery into the free throw bonus early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings didn’t do enough to capitalize.
A 3-pointer from point guard Tim McCullough gave Cardinal Newman a 51-49 lead, the Cardinals’ first edge since early in the first quarter. McCullough scored seven of his 11 on the night in the final period.
Twice forging ties late, Montgomery took its last lead at 53-52. Then a sideline jumper from Love restored Cardinal Newman’s advantage.
Montgomery had the ball with 29 seconds left but a turnover and two missed free throws ended the Vikings’ hopes.
Monday’s comeback victory was a good test with the North Coast Section Playoffs looming, Love said.
“We just wanted to come out and play hard for four quarters,” Love said. “This is how the playoffs are going to be.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or email@example.com.