Sonoma County Classic: Santa Rosa, Newman win openers

 By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman and Santa Rosa advanced to the winner’s bracket in Thursday’s opening round of the Sonoma County Classic while Healdsburg, Rancho Cotate and host Piner went down in defeat.

Newman got the best of Eureka, 56-43, and Santa Rosa defeated Piner, 56-55.

In the other games, Rancho Cotate lost to defending champion Acalanes, 66-50, and Healdsburg was beaten by Mt. Eden, 50-34.

Daniel Cresta’s free throw provided the margin of victory for Santa Rosa. Cresta, a senior was fouled with 2.9 seconds remaining and the score tied at 55-55.

He made one of two free throws and Piner’s desperation shot at the buzzer was off the mark.

While Newman’s victory was clear cut, it wasn’t a crisp performance.

“Not a thing of beauty, but we got the job done,” coach Tom Bonfigli said.  “We had shots where we just didn’t put the ball in the basket.”

The only time the Cardinals trailed was at 2-0 early in the first quarter. With 5:45 until halftime, the Newman lead was three.

Then the Cardinals went on a 10-2 run before the half, with Connor Rubattino scoring five and James Ryan with four to lead the charge, giving the Cardinals a decent cushion.

The Cardinals increased a nine-point lead at the break to 13 at the end of three quarters.

“We played with more intensity in the second half,” Bonfigli said. “I liked the effort.”

Rubattino led all scorers with 15. A 6-foot-3 sophomore, he played on the school’s football team and has now rounded into shape for basketball.

Bonfigli didn’t spend much time savoring the victory. Almost immediately, he began thinking about tonight’s opponent, Acalanes.

“They’re the best team we’ll have played,” Bonfigli said about the Lafayette school.  “That center they have (Buster Souza) is a special player.”

Souza, a 6-foot-7 senior, was selected the most valuable player in last year’s tournament and played a major role when the Dons defeated Newman in the championship game.

He was equally impressive against Rancho Cotate on Thursday — he scored 26 — and his defensive presence persuaded the Cougars to stay out of the paint.

Rancho kept the game close in the first half and in fact led, 25-23, two minutes before intermission.

However, Acalanes ended the half on an 8-0 run and then scored the first four points of the third quarter.

The Dons’ largest lead was 62-41 with 3:40 to play.

“We played well for awhile, and then started to make mental errors,” Cougars coach Dennis Magatelli said. “That’s been the story of our season.

“I really thought we could win this game,” he said. “We had them scouted and carried out the game plan for most of the first half. Then, we started with the mistakes.

“In the second half, we didn’t try to get the ball inside. We settled for outside shots early in the play clock.

“We’re young, but with 10 games under our belt, we should be playing smarter.”

Anthony Matteri had a solid game on both ends of the court for the Cougars, scoring 18 points and playing excellent defense.

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