Newman boys down Monty in NBL final

Montgomery's Matt Hyman goes up for a shot as Cardinal Newman's Justin Botteri defends during Friday's game at Santa Rosa JC. Credit: Crista Jeremiason  / The Press Democrat

Montgomery’s Matt Hyman goes up for a shot as Cardinal Newman’s Justin Botteri defends during Friday’s game at Santa Rosa JC.
Credit: Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat


Year after year, game after game, quarter after quarter, the Montgomery and Cardinal Newman boys basketball teams battle each other like 500-pound gorillas.

Friday on the neutral hardwood of Santa Rosa Junior College, the Vikings and Cardinals tipped off in the North Bay League Tournament championship game, and the game was every bit as intense as expected. After one quarter, Newman led by two points. At halftime, Newman led by two points. After three quarters, Newman led by two points.

Final score: Cardinal Newman 47, Montgomery 45.

The dust didn’t really settle until the final second, when the Cardinals’ James Ryan sneaked into the lane to grab an offensive rebound on teammate Justin Botteri’s missed free throw. Ryan cradled the ball and flashed a big smile, and Newman had won the rubber match in the Redwood Empire’s most competitive basketball rivalry.

“It was a great game,” Cardinal Newman coach Tom Bonfigli said. “I though both teams played really, really well. I thought both teams played really, really hard. The execution was good. Fitch (Montgomery’s Tom Fitchie) is a great coach. Playing these guys here, league finals, kind of the highlight of your season.”

The Cardinals’ blue-collar approach to basketball was reflected in their balanced scoring. Sophomore Damian Wallace had 13 points off the bench, senior Justin Botteri scored 11 and junior Connor Rubattino added 10 points while hitting three 3-pointers.

Newman built an eight-point lead, its largest of the game, twice in the fourth quarter, the last at 43-35 with 3:54 remaining. But the Vikings clawed their way back into it, and senior Joe Peterich made things interesting when he popped a 3-pointer from the right baseline to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 47-45. Montgomery called time out with 1.8 seconds left, and Botteri was fouled on the inbound pass with 1.4 on the clock. He missed both free throws in the double bonus, but Ryan came through with the big rebound.

At the start of the game, the teams didn’t look so evenly matched. The Vikings scored the first nine points of the game as Newman missed its first six shots and Montgomery’s 6-foot-11 center, Eric Poulsen, quickly established his dominance inside.

Poulsen would win up with 24 points — nobody else on the Monty side scored more than six — and several blocked shots, including two in the first four minutes to set the tone.

But just like that, Cardinal Newman reversed course. The impetus was Wallace, who entered the game with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter and his team trailing 9-0. The Cardinals reeled off a 13-2 run, with Wallace and Botteri scoring five points each.

“Damian Wallace is a heck of a player,” Bonfigli said. “One of those guys — he’s instinctive, he’s intuitive, he makes good decisions, he’s fearless.”

Poulsen remained the most important player on the court. In fact, he scored 12 of Montgomery’s 14 points in the third quarter. But after that opening spree, the Cardinals made him work much harder for his buckets, collapsing on the big man with double teams and forcing him to pass out of the post.

Cardinal Newman improved to 26-2 while Montgomery fell to 18-10. Both await their North Coast Section playoff seedings Sunday.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or

  • miles

    on wednesday your paper had a story about monty’s point guard scoring 36 points to beat newman. septimo i think is his name. he had a knee injury and worked his butt off to get back. great story. now in the biggest game of the year, newman shuts him down, holding him to 5 points to win the league title, and there is ZERO mention of this. not even his name, not the players who guarded him and probably made the difference in the game. i believe that would be the storyline in any other paper. septimo scored 36 of 50 points last week. last night? FIVE!!!!! and NOTHING?? you don’t think this fact is at least worth one sentence? i will cover high school basketball for 1 year free of charge for you and let you decide who should be your basketball reporter……