NCS boys championship: Salesian shuts down Newman

By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

ALBANY — Cardinal Newman boys basketball coach Tom Bonfigli has said that “our quarter” is the third quarter.

In the North Coast Section Division 4 championship game against Salesian on Saturday night, it clearly wasn’t. The Cardinals, who trailed by just four points at the half, unraveled in the third, and trailed by 25 heading into the fourth. Newman’s third loss of the season, a 65-34 defeat to the Pride in the section title game, snapped their 19-game win streak.

“I thought we played an exceptional first half,” Bonfigli said. “In the third quarter, shots didn’t drop, we turned the ball over. All the things we could not do in the game — we did not do in the first half — we did them all in the third quarter.”

After a Kyle King basket in the first minute of the third quarter, Newman didn’t score again until Kenny Love hit a pair of free throws with 3:12 left in the quarter. It was a 15-0 run by the Pride, who outscored the Cardinals by 27 points in the second half.

“I think they’re really good,” Bonfigli said. “I don’t think they’re 30 points better than we are, but they were in the second half.”

Salesian, anchored by UC Berkeley-commit Jabari Bird, stepped up its defense when it took the floor to start the second half. That’s what Love thought was the ultimate back-breaker.

“They just came out in that press,” he said.

“We just didn’t handle that press properly.”

Bonfigli shared Love’s sentiment on the Pride’s second half.

“The pressure didn’t bother us much in the first half; bothered us a little bit in the second half,” Bonfigli said. “Obviously, they got two or three runs. Once they spaced us, you’re just playing.”

Bird and Mario Dunn led all scorers with 20 points. Love led the Cardinals with 10 and King had eight points.

Newman’s slow start also didn’t help its cause. The Cardinals managed to score just two baskets in the first quarter, and outscored Salesian 17-13 in the second to keep it close heading into the locker room.

Love thought there were some missed opportunities in the first two quarters.

“We knew we had had better halves in us,” he said. “We knew we had to come out and take off the first few minutes of the (second) half and we didn’t do that.”

Love is taking the loss in stride because the Cardinals’ season isn’t over.

“They are a great team,” he said. “We’re looking forward to playing again. All though we lost here, it’s a positive that we get to play again.”

In the first round of the NCS playoffs, Newman cruised to a 75-46 victory over Cloverdale. The Cardinals topped Marin Catholic 57-48 in the semis on Wednesday. Salesian won all of its games, including the final, by 20-plus points.

Both Newman and Salesian will play in the NorCal tournament starting Tuesday. Seedings for the tourney will be decided today.

Salesian more than likely will be playing in the open division, while the Cardinals will stay in Division IV.

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