Boys basketball: Cardinals comeback surprises St. Mary’s in Rose City Tournament

Cardinal Newman's Justin Botteri goes up for the rebound against Saint Mary's Nyjahl Thompson during the championship game of the Rose City Tournament held at Cardinal Newman High School, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Justin Botteri goes up for the rebound against Saint Mary’s Nyjahl Thompson during the championship game of the Rose City Tournament held at Cardinal Newman High School, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

By HOWARD SENZELL

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Playing a smothering defense in the second half, Cardinal Newman was able to rally and defeat visiting Saint Mary’s, 42-41, in the championship game of the Rose City Tournament on Saturday night.

After trailing 29-20 at intermission, the Cardinals held the Albany school to a dozen points in the second half.

Down one, Saint Mary’s had the ball with 25 seconds remaining but could only get off an errant 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded.

“Holy mackerel, that was a great game,” winning coach Tom Bonfigli said. “People won’t see a better game all year.
“Our guys showed a lot of poise. We played at a much better tempo in the second half and also our shot selection was better.”

Newman erased most of the Panthers’ lead in the third quarter by outscoring the visitors, 15-7.

Justin Botteri, who scored a game-high 20 points, was selected the tournament’s most valuable player.

Connor Rubattino, who had 18, and James Ryan were named to the all-tourney team.

(See more photos from the tournament)

Even though he didn’t make the all-tournament team, Gunnar Walker was outstanding on defense. The 6-foot-8 center continually forced opposing players to change their shots and also did a strong job on the boards.

“He’s the glue that holds our defense together,” Bonfigli said. “He played the entire game against Saint Mary’s.”

For Bonfigli, it was career win No. 677 and improved the Cardinals’ record to a perfect 4-0.

All teams in the tournament played twice on Saturday because of Thursday’s rain-out.

Newman got to the championship by defeating San Marin, 57-42. Saint Mary’s advanced by upending Redwood, 65-42.

Next up for Newman is the Brett Callan Memorial Tournament at Casa Grande. In Thursday’s opening round, the Cardinals play defending champion Fairfield.

In the other Rose City night games on Saturday:

CENTRAL CATHOLIC 68, SANTA ROSA 65

The Modesto school went home with the consolation trophy.

Santa Rosa made a good late run to make the game close. The Panthers trailed, 46-37, heading to the final quarter.

Michael Ahnberg led the Santa Rosa attack with 13 points.

ELSIE ALLEN 72, RANCHO COTATE 51

The Lobos lit up the scoreboard with 50 points in the first half and wound up taking seventh place.

Jalen Busby and Bradley Greiner shared scoring honors for Elsie Allen with 13 points apiece.

Rancho’s Alec Wong was the game’s leading scorer with 18. Demitri Morton had 11.

REDWOOD 62, SAN MARIN 46

In the third-place game, the Giants started pulling away in the second quarter by outscoring San Marin, 18-11.