Boys basketball: Empire teams miss out on championship matchup in Sonoma County Classic

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

There will not be a hometown team playing for the championship of the 32nd annual Sonoma County Classic tonight at Piner High.

The last two local schools with a chance to win the title — Cardinal Newman and Santa Rosa — both lost close games Friday night.

The Cardinals were nipped by Acalanes 52-51, while the Panthers were edged by Mt. Eden 42-38.

So, Newman and Santa Rosa will play each other for third place today at 5:30 p.m., and Acalanes and Mt. Eden will decide the championship 90 minutes later.

Newman almost made a miracle comeback in what was a rematch of last year’s tournament final.

Acalanes scored the first 12 points of the game and didn’t allow a field goal to the Cardinals in the first quarter. After one period, it was 19-2.

Newman put 21 on the scoreboard in the second but still trailed 33-23 at halftime.

The Cardinals kept clawing back and got the lead at 51-50 in the waning seconds.

However, Ross Teichman then made two free throws that proved to be the difference.

Down one, Newman had the ball with 15 seconds remaining.

“I called a play we practice quite a bit,” coach Tom Bonfigli said.

“We made a wrong decision with the ball and that cost us.”

The Cardinals will also remember the missed opportunities at the free throw line. They made just nine of 20.

Teichman scored the Dons’ last six points and wound up with 10.

Matt Thomas led Acalanes with 16, one more than Zack Kisner.

Buster Souza, the tournament’s reigning most valuable player, had only seven after scoring 26 against Rancho Cotate in the opening round. He was plagued by foul trouble.

Connor Head led the Cardinals with 19 while Connor Rubattino finished with 12.

“The last three quarters we dominated every aspect of the game,” Bonfigli said. “We could’ve easily won.”

Acalanes is making a habit of beating Sonoma County schools this season. The Dons topped Analy by 15 and Rancho Cotate by 16.

Like Newman, Santa Rosa was in position to win late in the fourth quarter.

Rudy Gutierrez’s basket with two minutes remaining made it 38-38. That would be Santa Rosa’s last points.

Curtis Keeting, Jr. put Mt. Eden ahead with a basket as the shot clock expired and then, following a Santa Rosa turnover, connected on a fast break layup.

Santa Rosa had its chances but mistakes and missed shots plagued them late.

The Panthers had the lead and momentum with 5:30 to go as two free throws by Daniel Cresta gave them a 34-31 advantage.

“We need to learn how to close out close games,” coach John McGill said.

“We have had trouble doing it consistently. In most of our losses, we’ve been in position to win but didn’t finish.

“We haven’t been consistent stringing together offensive possessions and defensive stands down the stretch.”

In Friday’s other games, Piner defeated Healdsburg 55-44, and Eureka handled Rancho Cotate 70-45.

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