Boys basketball: Santa Rosa stuns Newman 50-49

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In one of the most stunning upsets in the 32-year history of the Sonoma County Classic, Santa Rosa defeated Cardinal Newman, 50-49, at Piner High on Saturday night.

The victory in the third-place game comes three weeks after the Panthers lost to the Cardinals by 35 points in the Rose City Tournament.

“It’s a big win for us and a big win for the Santa Rosa basketball program,” a smiling coach John McGill said. “Coming back to beat a quality team like Newman after they beat us so convincingly is really something.”

A Newman comeback almost spoiled the Panthers’ party. The Cardinals trailed by a point and had the ball with 6.8 seconds remaining. Following a timeout, Connor Rubbatino dribbled down the court and put up a 3-point shot with two seconds left. The ball hit the backboard and then bounced off the rim.

Santa Rosa trailed 24-19 at halftime but rallied to take a 30-28 lead on Rudy Gutierrez’s 3-point shot.

Thanks to a trey by Adrin Salinas as the third quarter ended, the Panthers led 39-32 heading to the final eight minutes.

The lead grew to 11 points on a Gutierrez basket with five minutes remaining and was still seven at the two-minute mark.

James Ryan, Connor Head and Rubattino each scored to bring Newman closer. Santa Rosa’s only points in the final two minutes came on two free throws by Trevor Weitzenberg.

How can a team lose by 35 points and avenge the defeat three weeks later?

“The first game we fell behind right away and it just snowballed from there,” McGill said. “We didn’t handle adversity that night.”

“The game plan this time was to play poised when Newman pressed us and do a better job on the boards.

“The kids showed maturity and didn’t get rattled against the press. Also, we were more aggressive rebounding and kept them from dominating us.”

Daniel Cresta led the Panthers’ scoring attack with 20. Head was the high man for Newman with 20.

Both Head and Cresta made the all-tournament team.

Santa Rosa will take a 7-4 record into its NBL opener Wednesday against visiting Montgomery.

The Cardinals, now 6-6, also begin league play Wednesday when they travel to Ukiah.

In other Sonoma County Classic games Saturday, Rancho Cotate took seventh place by beating Healdsburg, 56-38, and Piner claimed fifth place by defeating Eureka, 57-40.

The upset was far more exciting than the championship game, which Acalanes won, 55-37, over Mt. Eden. Center Buster Souza led the way with 30 points and was named the most valuable player. It was the second year in a row Souza won the honor and Acalanes returned to Lafayette with the first-place trophy.

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