NCS boys basketball: Archbishop Hanna holds off Laytonville 65-53

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Archbishop Hanna's Victor Hughes, center, and Laytonville's Connor Beardsley reach for a loose ball during Wednesday's NCS playoff game. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

Archbishop Hanna’s Victor Hughes, center, and Laytonville’s Connor Beardsley reach for a loose ball during Wednesday’s NCS playoff game. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

SONOMA — Archbishop Hanna coach Courtney Jackson didn’t like the way his team was playing defense. When a visiting Laytonville player drove along the baseline and laid up the ball for an easy score, Jackson called time out and lit into his boys.

The game was 90 seconds old. This was Laytonville’s first basket.

“I saw that move to the basket, and I saw my big man back away from him, and shy away from the contact, and I knew right then and there it’s time to put an end to this right now, versus in the third quarter,” Jackson said.

See game photos here

The coach knows his kids, give him credit for that. The Hawks responded to the challenge and roared to a 22-5 lead after one quarter, en route to a 65-53 victory in the first round of the North Coast Section Division 6 playoffs on Wednesday.

Fourth-seeded Archbishop Hanna (23-4) gets another home game Saturday against No. 5 Ferndale, a 59-51 winner over Mendocino in the first round.

The victory over Laytonville demonstrated the best and worst of Hanna basketball. The positives include a dynamic leaper in junior Armani Perry, a deep bench and a balanced scoring attack. Perry led the Hawks with 12 points Wednesday, followed by Russell Wood with 11, Darius Johnson and Dakota Woltering with nine apiece, and Dage Rivergo and Fernando Marquez with eight each. That makes Hanna hard to defend.

And the Hawks are impressive defensively when they have the intensity turned up. Laytonville hit just 7 of 34 shots (21 percent) in the first half, thanks largely to Hanna’s perimeter pressure. The home team led 39-21 at the break.

“Once our guards and bigs can come up and take charges and stop ball and give good help-side, it fires everyone up,” said Johnson, the Hawks’ senior point guard. “When we force turnovers it creates fast breaks, and that kind of gets our offense going.”

But Hanna’s flaws were evident in the second half. After building that big lead, the team seemed to lose some focus. Even more aggravating to Jackson, his players failed to milk the clock on offense. Too many times they brought the ball up the court and launched a long shot early in the possession.

The lack of discipline didn’t cost the Hawks in the end, but it made things a lot harder than they had to be. Laytonville, the No. 13 seed, cut the deficit to 12 points in the final two minutes of the third quarter on back-to-back 3-point shots by 5-foot-5 sophomore Sheldon Britton. Another timeout by Jackson did the trick there, as Hanna immediately answered with a driving basket by Rivergo and a 3-pointer by Marquez.

Laytonville clawed closer again in the fourth quarter, though, as the Hawks got sloppy with the ball. When Manish Khatri scored for the Warriors off an inbounds pass, the score was 57-47 with 5:45 left — plenty of time for an upset.

“I think we were all a little concerned,” Johnson said. “We all had to go and sit down, and Coach had to tell us to buckle down on defense. Because our coach always tells us, if you let a team stick around, they might do something crazy and catch up.”

That didn’t happen, thanks to a mini-rally by Hanna that included 3-pointers by Jesse Limon and Wood, and another drive by Rivergo.

Hanna was up 65-51 with 2:19 remaining, a comfortable but not insurmountable lead, when Jackson did something unconventional. He called time out and sent the end of his bench into the game. You could hear the nervousness in the crowd.

“In this playoff environment, I’m trying to tighten it up and get down to a seven- or eight-man rotation,” Jackson explained. “But these guys are out there acting like they don’t understand the magnitude of the game. And when you’re coming down the court with three or four minutes on the clock and a 16-point lead, and you’re one-pass-one-shot every time down, that’s great when they go in. But when they don’t, and you go back down and give up a bad defensive possession, it’s just frustrating.”

Jackson was making a point: If you’re more concerned with your statistics than securing a playoff win, you’re going to sit down. He also had a lot of confidence in the kids he was putting on the floor, and though none of them scored, they held Laytonville to two points over the final 2:19.

Those points were by senior Corey James Jr., the son of Warriors coach Corey James Sr., and that was appropriate. James Jr. was sensational, leading all scorers with 22 points and frequently distributing the ball in the halfcourt though he stands 6-foot-1.

“He could put the ball on the floor. As best he could, he was trying to dish the ball to other players as well,” Jackson said of James. “I’d never seen him play before, but I realized real quick that he was somebody that we had to keep an eye on at all times. When he didn’t have the ball is when he was most dangerous.”

Britton had 12 points for Laytonville (9-15), and Khatri had 10.

The Hanna boys have a couple reasons to feel confident about Saturday. First, it’s Ferndale that must make the four-hour drive here, not the other way around. Second, the Hawks have already beaten the Wildcats, 86-71, at Ferndale on Jan. 27.

 

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