PDPreps Insider: Tiny school’s mixed reviews on bigger gym

They are less than 5 miles apart, but they can seem worlds away. In fact, long-time Archbishop Hanna High School basketball coach Courtney Jackson said, his team had never played a game at Sonoma Valley High. He had tried to slot his Hawks in a tournament there this year, but it didn’t work out.

When Hanna made the CIF NorCal Division 6 basketball playoffs this year (the first time ever D6 schools were included in the CIF tournament), organizers decided Hanna’s gym wasn’t big enough. They scheduled the Hawks’ second-round home game against Valley Christian (Roseville) for Sonoma Valley.

Jackson got a kick of out of playing in the larger arena a week ago. Armani Perry, one of Hanna’s top players, was less than impressed.

“It’s not fun to play in this gym,” Perry said after the Hawks’ dizzying 100-90 victory. “This is an antique gym, and it should go in the shop. I wanted to play in our gym, at Hanna, but things don’t go that way. It’s a gym, it’s two baskets, and we’re gonna go after it. Any gym.”

In an ironic twist, Hanna very well could have played that game at home. The Valley Christian girls team had a home game that night, and the Lions boys did not draw many fans to Sonoma.

Cardinals join ‘Club 30’

This year’s Cardinal Newman boys basketball team was expected to be competitive, as always, but not necessarily dominant. And yet Newman shared the North Bay League title with Montgomery, made it to the championship game of the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs and made another run in the CIF bracket.

The most impressive number on the Cardinals’ 2014-15 resume might be 30. When they beat Half Moon Bay in the second round of the CIF NorCal playoffs on Saturday, it ran their overall record to 30-3.

According to coach Tom Bonfigli, four large-school Redwood Empire teams have won 30 or more games in a season — and he coached all of them at Cardinal Newman.

Swimmers at nationals

Two local swimmers have qualified for the NCAA Division I championships this week on the campus of North Carolina State University.

Molly Hannis, a senior at the University of Tennessee who swam for Santa Rosa High School, qualified as the first seed in the 100 meter breast stroke and third in the 200 meter breast. She is also slated to compete in the 200 and 400 meter medley relay for the Volunteers.

Allie Davis, who swam at Windsor High, is a junior at Purdue and qualified at 26th for the 200 meter freestyle and was invited to race the 500 and 1,650 meter freestyle races. She is also expected to compete on the Boilermakers’ 800 meter free relay team.

New Newman tradition

This year’s Cardinal Newman girls basketball team has a special bit of history attached to it. The three seniors, Megan McConnell, Julia Bertolero and Kylie Kiech, are the first girls to have been Cardinals for their entire four-year prep career.

In 2010, Cardinal Newman High School was boys only. But that year, its sister Catholic school Ursuline High, announced it would be closing — and Newman announced it would begin enrolling girls the following year.

Coach Monica Mertle said it’s been a bonding experience for the girls to have begun creating the Cardinal girls traditions post-Ursuline. Back in the day, Mertle and her sister both played for Ursuline.

“It’s been rewarding for us — creating a new identity,” Mertle said. “Historically, people thought of Newman and Ursuline as one, but they were two different schools. It’s a lot of fun creating an identity from scratch.

“The girls have really embraced that, and it’s been important to creating our tradition.”

Press Democrat Staff Writers Phil Barber, Kerry Benefield and Lori A. Carter contributed to this report.