In their stretch drive toward securing a higher seed for the Sonoma County League postseason tournament, the Sonoma Valley High School varsity basketball boys ended last week facing a pair of SCL foes on both the road and their home court, respectively, with mixed results.
Entering last Thursday’s battle in Santa Rosa with a chance to pull into a second-place tie with Piner – SCL unbeaten first-place Analy is cruising to a repeat title – the Dragons got off to a slow start and trailed 16-7 after the first quarter, before putting together a 19-9 second-period run to take a one-point halftime lead.
After a high-scoring third quarter, Sonoma had a two-point advantage going into an evenly played fourth period, which the Prospectors managed to win by a basket that tied the game at 58-58 and sent it into overtime.
Unfortunately for the visiting Dragons, they came up two points short in the extra period and ended up dropping a 68-66 heartbreaking decision to Piner, which also won their first meeting and claimed the league-season series.
Hoping to keep its second- or even third-place hopes alive and avoid a fourth-place finish, which would mean a postseason SCL Tournament opening-round game at top-seeded Analy, Sonoma faced a must-win situation Saturday night in Pfeiffer Gym.
Engulfed in a tough first-half battle with longtime league foe Healdsburg, the Dragons, who ran away with a victory in their first meeting, couldn't shake the pesky visitors and held only a 23-22 halftime lead.
With coach Dennis Housman interjecting some energy into his team by slapping on a full-court press coming out of the break, and Sonoma responded with a pressure-packed defensive performance that ignited the offense, which in turn produced an 18-2 third-quarter run that left the Greyhounds gasping for air.
The Dragons then kept Healdsburg at bay through the fourth quarter and coasted in with a 56-47 win, which improved their SCL record to 6-4, and their overall mark to 8-15.
Pacing the Sonoma boys at Piner were junior Cyle Gusse’s 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks; senior Jack Murphy’s 18 points, three rebounds and tough defensive play; senior Jesse Summers’ 15 points, six rebounds and two assists; junior Tristan Mertens’ four points and two assists; senior Vinny Albano’s three points, five rebounds and two assists; junior Ryan Wilbanks’ three points; and junior Alex Gustafson's four rebounds.
Leading Sonoma past the ’Hounds were Gusse’s 17 points, Murphy’s 11 points and Summers and Gustafson's eight each.
The Dragons, who battle Elsie Allen in an SCL third-place showdown tonight, will host longtime league rival Petaluma in both their home and regular-season finales Thursday evening, Feb. 13, in Pfeiffer Gym, with the freshmen starting at 4:30, the junior varsity playing at 6 p.m., and the varsity tipping off at 7:30 p.m.
Before Thursday’s varsity tipoff, Sonoma will honor its four seniors, including Albano, Murphy, Summers and Andy Chavez.
Sonoma’s jayvee hoops boys took an early lead and held it for four quarters en route to a 45-37 win at Piner, led by sophomore Kevin Hurtado's 10 points, nine rebounds and two assists; sophomore Spencer McNairy’s nine points; sophomore Edwin Reyes’ eight points and two steals; sophomores Travis Claeys and Joe Petersen’s five points each; sophomore Miles Pimentel’s four points and seven rebounds; and sophomore Max Yankovich’s four points, six rebounds and five assists.