By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cardinal Newman, the best boys basketball team in the Redwood Empire, was assigned the No. 2 seed in Division 4 of the North Coast Section Tournament and will begin play Wednesday night hosting No. 15 Cloverdale.
“No complaints from me,” quipped coach Tom Bonfigli after the pairings were announced Sunday. “I penciled in a bracket beforehand and it was nearly the same as what NCS came up with.
“Once the tourney begins, the numbers don’t mean a thing. You have to play hard every game because there are no second chances.
“In a single-elimination tournament, you can’t overlook anyone.”
Bonfigli got the 650th win of his career Friday when his team defeated Montgomery in the finals of the North Bay League Tournament.
Twenty boys teams from the Empire were invited to the tourney. Eight of those squads will compete in Div. 6, the bracket for schools with the smallest enrollment, fewer than 200 students.
Cardinal Newman (26-2) and Cloverdale (15-11) are among five area schools in Div. 4. The others are: No. 9 Healdsburg (22-6), No. 13 Willits (21-5) and No. 14 Middletown (19-6).
The lone top seed among the 20 is Rincon Valley Christian (24-4) and as a reward, the Eagles will get an opening-round bye. They’ll have until Saturday to prepare for the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 8 California School for the Deaf (17-9) and No. 9 Rio Lindo Adventist (17-9).
“I thought after winning our league (NCL II) and with our record, we deserved a No. 1,” coach Darren Nelson said. “Of course, the honor doesn’t mean anything once the tournament starts.”
Last week, RVC had its 15-game win streak snapped by Calistoga, a team it had beaten earlier by a score of 60-36.
“That was a wake-up call for the players and coaching staff,” Nelson said. “We have to prepare for every game, especially now in the postseason when it’s one loss and you’re done. We had our best practice of the year the day after the loss, so I think we all learned a lesson.”
In Div. 2, the NBL will be represented by three teams including No. 4 Montgomery. The Vikings (21-7) will play No. 13 Washington of Fremont (14-12) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Following that game, the Montgomery girls (22-6) will tangle with Northgate (12-14).
No. 10 Ukiah (17-10) and No. 16 Casa Grande (14-13) are the other NBL teams in Div. 2. The Wildcats will travel to No. 7 Concord (20-6) and the Gauchos must visit No. 1 Newark Memorial (19-7).
Analy, Sonoma County League champs, are joined by No. 10 Piner in the Div. 3 bracket.
The Tigers (21-7), pegged at No. 6, get a home game Tuesday against No. 11 Hercules (17-9). The Tigers lost a Nov. 28 home game to the Titans, 71-58.
The Prospectors (15-11) travel to No. 7 San Marin (18-10).
Two Empire teams were invited to participate in Div. 5 which begins Wednesday. No. 14 St. Vincent (19-10) will travel to Kezar Pavilion where No. 3 San Francisco University (21-7) awaits. No. 16 Roseland Prep (15-12) has a date with No. 1 St. Joseph Notre Dame (18-11).
Besides Rincon Valley Christian, other area teams in Div. 6 include: No. 4 Laytonville (12-12), No. 5 Mendocino (18-8), No. 6 Point Arena (18-8), No. 7 Summerfield Waldorf (21-7), No. 10 Archbishop Hanna (15-9), No. 14 Anderson Valley (10-12) and Rio Lindo Adventist.
First-round games are Wednesday.
The tournament continues with second-round games Friday or Saturday night. The semifinals are set for Feb. 27 with the finals March 1 or March 2.