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Boys basketball: Cardinal Newman defeats 63-55 Montgomery for NBL title

By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman's Kenny Love, left, is pressured by Montgomery's Dakota Row on Friday during the NBL boys basketball tournament title game at Santa Rosa Junior College.  (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Kenny Love, left, is pressured by Montgomery’s Dakota Row on Friday during the NBL boys basketball tournament title game at Santa Rosa Junior College. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

How hot was it at Haehl Pavilion on Friday night?

Cardinal Newman’s Kenny Love scored a season-high 30 points and Cardinals coach Tom Bonfigli appeared to have been given a Gatorade bath after Newman captured the North Bay League boys basketball tournament title with a 63-55 victory over rival Montgomery.

“You know what it was: Montgomery’s a great team,” Bonfigli said. “We had the two close games. I thought we really needed to come out and have a good start.”

The Cardinals charged ahead by 10 in the first quarter, going up 14-4 at one point. The run was fueled in part by a sloppy first few minutes by the Vikings, with errant passes and a pair of air balls setting them back early. Montgomery trailed by nine at the end of the first quarter.

The hot start was a long time coming, Bonfigli said.

“We haven’t really done that in about a month,” he said. “We played very well in the first quarter. It’s something we need to be doing. We’re trying to get playoff ready.”

Vikings coach Tom Fitchie told his team they couldn’t spot a really good team 10 points early.

“They make you pay for it,” he said. “I was really proud of the way they battled … after that we played them even or a little bit better.”

Montgomery outscored Newman 45-44 in the final three quarters.

Love started his run to 30 at the start of the second, scoring six consecutive points to bump the Cardinals’ lead to 15 before an Alec Raven 3-pointer gave Montgomery its first points of the quarter. Love’s 17-point first half gave Newman a 33-23 lead at the half.

“The trademark of this team, of all the things they are, is they’re unselfish,” Bonfigli said. “We play a team that’s not very good, Kenny doesn’t care if he scores. He wanted the game tonight. I call a lot of the offense. I called a lot of numbers to him, and he showed that he can play basketball.”

Love called his milestone night “fun.”

“We were working in practice all week on taking what they give us and attacking especially early in possessions because you know once that defense gets set it’d be tough to get by,” he said. “They all get in the lane.”

In the previous two Monty-Newman match-ups, Love thought he did more to help overall as opposed to taking charge Friday night. “I thought I was getting in the lane a little easier this time, so I kind of kept taking what was available,” he said.

Montgomery’s Alec Raven scored 10 straight points to cut Newman’s lead to eight late in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get the Vikings any closer. He finished with 27.

The buzz surrounding Friday’s game was intense, with some fans turned away from the packed Haehl Pavilion.

Love said the heat of the sold-out gym didn’t affect game play.

Bonfigli said he prepared his team for the climate in advance.

“We knew it’d be hot,” Bonfigli said. “We got our kids hydrated all week before the game. I was hydrated, too, but it was hot. You know, it’s OK that it’s hot. When adrenaline’s flowing, you’re coaching you’re playing, you don’t notice any of it. You just play.”

Neither coach expected Friday night’s result to change the team’s standings for the North Coast Section playoffs. Seedings for NCS are due to be announced Sunday.