Sonoma County Classic: Newman races past Piner, 48-27

By HOWARD SENZELL

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Undefeated Cardinal Newman went on a 22-0 run in the first half and then coasted to a 48-27 victory over host Piner in the championship game of the 33rd annual Sonoma County Classic on Wednesday night.

After falling behind 5-2, the Cardinals ended the first quarter by scoring 16 in a row. They then scored the first six points of the second quarter. Piner’s first basket of the period came 45 seconds before intermission on a shot by Levani Dominiko.

Staked to a 26-7 lead at intermission, Newman coach Tom Bonfigli substituted liberally in the second half.
“We played extremely well,” Bonfigli said. “Obviously when you hold a team to seven points in a half, your defense played well.

“We felt Keith Adams was Piner’s best player and our focus was to shut him down,” Bonfigli added. “We played him tight on the perimeter and then used our height advantage to keep him from getting to the basket.”

Adams finished with a team-high 12 points, a majority of those coming in the second half.

Connor Rubattino, selected the tournament’s most valuable player, got the Cardinal Newman offense going. He scored a dozen of his 19 points in the first quarter.

“He’s a special player,” Bonfigli said of the junior. “He’s very good on offense, defense and rebounding.”

Justin Botteri and Gunnar Walker also made the all-tourney team. Botteri had 11 rebounds and eight points in the championship. He and Walker kept Piner from getting easy shots.

The Prospectors got few second-chance points. The Cardinals allowed them only three offensive rebounds.

“Newman’s size caused us problems,” Piner coach Mike Erickson said. “Their defense is solid, just real good.

“I thought we had a case of big-game jitters in the first half when we couldn’t make a basket,” Erickson added. “No question, they were the best team. They just manhandled us.”

The Cardinals are 10-0 and won three tournaments in the pre-league portion of their schedule. They also captured the Rose City and Brett Callan Memorial championships.

Bonfigli said he never expected his team to be undefeated heading into North Bay League play. The Cardinals open Wednesday night at Montgomery.

“I never thought we’d be undefeated because we had some tough teams on our schedule,” Bonfigli said. “To win every game, you have to overcome so many variables.”

Newman had two close calls. They beat Washington by four points and St. Mary’s by a point.

“We improved a lot since the season started, but to play to our potential, we still have to keep on improving,” Bonfigli said.

In the consolation championship, Santa Rosa edged Eureka, 61-59. The Panthers had three players score in double figures: Rudy Gutierrez (19), Kalei Aukai (17) and Isaiah Steele (12).

Seventh place went to Healdsburg, a 49-38 winner over Rancho Cotate. Landon Courtman led the Greyhounds with 24 points, while Demetri Morton had 14 for the Cougars.

In the third-place game, Las Lomas defeated Mt. Eden by the score of 69-48.