CIF basketball playoffs: Archbishop Hanna gets shot at NorCal title

Archbishop Hanna's Armani Perry in a 2013 game. (PD File, 2013)

Archbishop Hanna’s Armani Perry in a 2013 game. (PD File, 2013)

By PHIL BARBER

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

No basketball team is guaranteed a spot in the CIF playoffs, the rarefied air of high school basketball in California. But most squads at least give themselves a chance.

That wasn’t the case for the Archbishop Hanna boys team. Until very late in the season — right before the Small School Bridge League Tournament — no one at Hanna realized that the CIF had added a NorCal championship bracket for Division 6 schools. Until this year, the North Coast Section playoffs were the end of the line for the smallest campuses.

Hawks coach Courtney Jackson discovered the new opportunity by chance. He was talking to Rio Lindo coach Kevin Hardesty, who casually observed that they might have to move the postseason league meeting if both teams made the NorCal tournament.

Jackson’s reaction: Huh?

“I decided to keep it secret from everyone at the school,” Jackson said. “Then I made the announcement at a rally on campus after we won our league tournament.”

Hanna proceeded to establish a milestone by playing in the NCS final for the first time, and now will reach another with its first NorCal game ever. The Hawks are one of seven Redwood Empire teams competing in the NorCal playoffs, and one of four (along with the Windsor girls, the Anderson Valley boys and the Round Valley girls) tipping off Wednesday.

Hanna (24-5) gets a “home” game at Sonoma Valley High.

The Hawks have quietly built one of the top small-school programs in the area. They have a versatile scorer and go-to senior in guard Armani Perry, and a couple of long-range complements in senior Larry Michel and junior Fernando Marquez. The difference for Hanna this year is some muscle in the paint, primarily from junior Dakota Woltering and senior Jhe’nearo Hemmingway.

“This is the first year I’ve ever had an inside presence,” Jackson said. “We’re pretty tough down low. We have a couple guys who are only about 6’1″ each, but they’re about 225 pounds. We’re a load down low. We have established ourselves as a low-post team — but with shooters.”

Hanna is deep, too, with Jackson typically employing a nine-man rotation.

The Hawks very nearly won the section championship. They led at St. Bernard’s Catholic for practically the entire game. But with Perry in foul trouble (he eventually fouled out) and Michel turning his ankle in the fourth quarter, Hanna got sloppy late, missed some free throws and fell 70-66.

The fourth-seeded Hawks would love another shot at St. Bernard’s. First, though, they will have to deal with No. 5 Valley Christian of Roseville.

Jackson had an opportunity to see the Patriots once this year, and it was something to behold. Valley Christian (21-8) rotates a new set of five players into the game every 60 seconds. Its goal is to shoot a 3-pointer in the first 10 seconds of the play clock.

“They shot about 53 3-pointers when I saw them,” Jackson said. “They didn’t make many, but they must have some nights when they really light it up, or I don’t think they’d run that offense.”

Hanna and Valley Christian tip off at 7 p.m.