In the world of prep sports, there are levels of success that high school teams try to reach, with a championship being the utimate goal at each level.
While winning tournament titles is a challenge, and claiming league crowns is a tougher challenge, capturing a sectional championship is a more challenging venture, and a precursor to a chance at a NorCal banner and the ultimate challenge of possibly being a state champion.
On March 5, 1994 – 20 years ago tomorrow – a historical Valley sports feat was achieved, which, two decades later, still reverberates with the magnitude of difficulty it took to accomplish.
At a sold-out 4,000-seat James Logan High School gym in Fremont, the Sonoma Valley High School varsity boys’ basketball team, under the enlightened direction of head coach Phil Rosemurgy, faced mighty San Lorenzo – ranked No. 1 in the Bay Area, in the NorCal top-five and the state’s top-10 – with the North Coast Section Division-3 title on the line.
With highly favored San Lorenzo expected to dominate the sectional final en route to a NorCal crown and a shot at the CIF state title, the Dragons, who were Sonoma County League champions and compiled an impressive 25-3 record, shocked the whole Bay Area hoops world by instantly taking charge and racing to an eye-opening 22-9 first-quarter lead.
When the Rebels attempted to restore order in the second quarter and resume their position as the title favorites, the Sonoma boys responded by keeping a grip on the game’s momentum and winning the period’s scoring race by a 20-15 margin to take a mind-boggling 42-24 halftime advantage.
When the mostly East Bay crowd anxiously waited for San Lorenzo to come out of the half hungry to dominate the third quarter, it was the team from the North Bay, loudly cheered on by its contingent of Valley supportors, that refused to relinquish control.
Continuing to compliment their proficient offense with tough, swarming, in-your-face defense, the Dragons dictated the third-quarter tempo to the tune of a 17-6 run and took an overwhelming 59-30 lead into the fourth period, and then soared home with an emphatic 71-46 victory, which earned Sonoma its first-ever, in any sport, NCS team championship.
While their sectional title-game triumph over San Lorenzo featured an array of standout individual performances, Rosemurgy and his assistant coaches Roy Jordan and Andy Sallee never wavered from the Sonoma boys’ hoops program’s team-first philosophy, and the Dragons united their personal efforts and became NCS champions.
“Whether coaching high school or college basketball, I always stress to my players that the first word I want to hear coming out of their mouths when talking about the team is not ‘I,’ but ‘we,’ and I’ve been fortunate to have this Sonoma team, and other Dragon squads that played for me, being ‘we’ team-players, and that’s how you build successive programs,” said Rosemurgy, who came to Sonoma with many years of experience coaching at different levels, including being an assistant college coach and recruiter at Montana State and San Jose State universities. “Of course, besides character and hard work, you do need talent to win titles and we had plenty of that on the 1994 Dragon team, which took what we coaches taught and turned it into an amazing achievement. I do, though, have one regret and that is we fell short of the utlimate goal of playing for, and winning, a Division-3 state championship for the school and the whole Valley community, which is always the goal of a head coach, as it should be. But what we accomplished is a lifetime memory for the school, the Sonoma community, and especially for our 1994 team.”