SCL boys basketball: Analy turns it up late to pull away from Piner

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Analy's Theo Avila, right, drives past Piner's Justin Cervantes during Thursday night's SCL tournament championship game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Analy’s Theo Avila, right, drives past Piner’s Justin Cervantes during Thursday night’s SCL tournament championship game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Playing with the effort needed for section playoff games, Analy turned up the pressure and answered every Piner run Thursday night in pulling away for the Sonoma County League tournament title.

Analy was able to push the pace and use its size advantage after splitting a pair of very tight regular-season contests with Piner. Analy scored 10 unanswered in the first half, gained the lead for good late in the third quarter, and took advantage of Piner foul trouble to pour in free throws for the 73-61 victory over the visiting Prospectors.

“We got more intense defensively and tried to pick up effort-wise. That’s been the goal all year, effort,” said Theo Avila, among the Tigers’ four double-figure scorers. “We were able to hit our shots and slow them down.”

See game photos  here

The wake-up call for Analy came when Piner went on a 13-1 run in the first quarter for an eight-point cushion. Piner would mount another scoring surge to take the Prospectors’ last lead in the third period.

“We hurt ourselves,” said Adonay Efriem, who led Piner with 15 points. “We didn’t rebound well. We fouled them way too much.”

While the Tigers already clinched the league championship with a dominant regular season, the win could help Analy gain a better seed and a home game in the North Coast Section playoffs.

The section playoffs also likely await Piner. Giving the Tigers their toughest games in league play prepares the Prospectors for a probably tough first-round road contest.

Analy is young and improving. With no returning starters and a handful of underclassmen in major roles, the Tigers have developed depth to offset inexperience.

Leading the way again for Analy was junior guard Malcolm Jenkins with 24 points. His value was clear late in the third quarter, when he scored six straight, including the go-ahead basket.

Contributing a big game with rebound follows on offense and determined defense was senior Mohammed Halaweh, who added 15 points.

“Our team strength is that we don’t have a real star that our opponents can key on,” said Analy coach Brett Page.

Further evidence of Analy’s depth was the spark Saul Valencia provided off the bench, particularly in the second quarter. Several times, Valencia found seams in the defense for scores or assists.

Substituting early and often, Analy brought enough pressure to slow down Piner after the Prospectors largely controlled the first quarter.

Playing bigger than they should, Piner gets the most from a guard-oriented team.

Point guard and leading scorer Keith Adams hit for all 10 of his points in the game’s opening eight minutes. Anchoring the post to help frustrate Analy early was Efriem, Piner’s tallest player at just over 6 feet.

“The boys have gotten better and more confident,” said Piner coach Mike Erickson.

What initially turned the game in Analy’s favor was a series of nine possessions to open the second quarter. While the Tigers scored four times with the ball, Analy held Piner scoreless.

Among the toughest of Tigers defenders was Halaweh, who shut down Adams with help from teammates. Halaweh gave ground to Adams to limit drives and frustrate the playmaker, who fouled out early in the fourth period.

Fouls would help decide the contest. Piner put Analy in the bonus with just under two minutes to go in the third period, and the Tigers would make 23 of their 27 free throws in the second half.

Those scores from the charity stripe helped Analy build a four-point lead going into the final period to a double-digit advantage.

Still, the Prospectors would dig deep. A handful of 3-pointers helped keep the game within reach, with Nebi Gedlu going for 10 of his 14 on the night. Efriem scored seven in the final period.

“We were working. We never give up,” Efriem said.

Piner would cut Analy’s 10-point lead in half, but get no closer.

“They hit shots. But we just executed our stuff,” Avila said.

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