NBL boys basketball: Cardinals get payback on Pumas

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman's Connor Head, left, shoots over Maria Carrillo's Clayton Andrews during Thursday's game in Santa Rosa. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Connor Head, left, shoots over Maria Carrillo’s Clayton Andrews during Thursday’s game in Santa Rosa. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

In mid-January, after losing by 34 points at home to Maria Carrillo, Connor Rubattino and his Cardinal Newman teammates sat in their quiet locker room and listened to the Pumas whooping it up down the hall.

Then, each player likely went home and circled Feb. 6 on their calendar. They didn’t have to write a note to remind them the date was the rematch with Maria Carrillo.

The Cardinals waited patiently for three weeks and Thursday night, in the nearly-full Pumas’ gym, they got even with a 59-47 victory.

“I remember sitting in the locker room and hearing the Carrillo players celebrating,” sophomore Rubattino said. “Losing by such a large margin was bad enough, but to have it in happen in our gym was humiliating.

“We wanted to get even playing in their gym and we did. It feels like the biggest win of the season.”

The last three minutes of the third quarter proved to be the crucial portion of the game.

First, with Newman clinging to a 32-31 lead, Carrillo’s leading scorer A.J. John picked up his fourth foul and came out of the game.

As if on cue, the Cardinals promptly finished the period by going on a 7-0 run. Connor Head scored three and James Ryan had four.

John, who finished with a team-high 15, came back in the game with six minutes remaining. However, by that time Newman was ahead by 11.

So, what was the difference between the two games.

“This time we controlled the tempo and flow,” Newman coach Tom Bonfigli said. The kids played smart and with poise. They also showed toughness.

The Cardinals are a team on the improve. They were below .500 much of the pre-league season and were sent to the losers’ bracket in the first round of the Rose City Tournament which they hosted in December.

“Our guys continue to get better,” Bonfigli said. “We’re not a collection of stars, we’re just a group of players that try hard and aren’t selfish.”

Rubattino and Ryan shared high point honors with 18 each. Head had 17.

Although the Cardinals didn’t shoot free throws well, they had a big edge at the foul line. They converted 15 of 29 while Carrillo was 5 of 14.

Three-point shooting hurt the Pumas as they were six of 31 behind the arc.

“The Newman defense closed out very well when we attempted threes,” Carrillo coach Will Parker said. “In the first game, we had a lot of separation between the shooter and the defender. This time, on most of those shots, we barely had space to put the ball up.

“We didn’t value our possessions and rushed quite a few shots.”

The win puts the Cardinals in second place in the North Bay League. They’re 8-2 and Montgomery is 10-1. The teams play Monday night at Newman.

Overall, Newman is 13-8 and has won five in a row.

Carrillo is third in the NBL with an 8-3 mark. The Pumas had their four-game winning streak snapped and are 16-7.

Girls soccer team honored for team’s No. 1 national ranking

At halftime of Thursday’s game, the Maria Carrillo girls soccer squad was honored as the No. 1 team in the nation by Max Preps. Coach Debra LaPrath and her players were presented with a championship trophy.

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