It took an overtime win for the Sonoma Valley Dragons to make it into the first VVAL basketball playoffs, but make it they did – defeating Petaluma 49-48 in an exciting down-to-the-wire game at Pfeiffer Gym Monday night.
But it took exactly one game for the Dragons to exit the playoffs, when they lost Wednesday night to league-leading, and undefeated, Napa, 56-42.
The Vine Valley Athletic League standings at the end of regular season play found Sonoma Valley in fourth place with a 6-6 league record. That earned them the right to face the league leader, Napa High (undefeated with a 12-0 record) in the first playoff round on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
The Dragons hoped to pull off an upset, said Coach Mike Boles. “The players think we can,” he said earlier this week. They’ve come on strong in the last half of the season, and Monday might’s win over Petaluma had the boys thinking they can do anything.
In Monday’s game, the Dragons leaped out to a convincing 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, still basking from the Senior Night festivities before the game (seniors make up fully half of the team roster). But the thrill wore off in the second period as the visiting Trojans completely wrapped up the Dragons for zero points, while scoring 8 of their own to go into the half behind only by a basket, 17-15.
Once the second half began the Dragons found their aim, scoring 16 to the 15 for Petaluma, but in the fourth quarter the hard-working Trojans managed to outscore the home team 15-12 and earn the overtime with a 45-45 tie. It happened the hard way: Petaluma’s George Tynes hit with just 6.4 seconds left in the game, and an upset seemed inevitable.
Then Sonoma’s speedy and elusive freshman Dom Girish managed to evade Trojan defenders to drive unmolested for a lay-up that dropped through the net just ahead of the fourth-period buzzer, tying the game, 45-45.
All the drama of the four preceding 12-minute periods came down to the final five-minute overtime, though almost all of the shots by both teams missed under pressure. It was up to senior forward Tyler Garrett to score all four Dragons OT points, the first on a free throw to put them up 46-45.
Then a three-point shot from Petaluma’s Esteban Bermudez gave the Trojans the narrow lead with just a minute to play, and it was up to that same Garrett brother to take his final shot, a three-pointer from beyond the arc to hit the rim before being tipped in for the win.
Garrett led Sonoma with 12 points with junior Riley Phelan and freshman Girish scoring 10 apiece.
Wednesday night’s game in Napa started out well for the Dragons, and they actually won the first quarter 9-6, jumping out to a 5-point lead on early baskets by Phelan and Girish. But the Grizzlies soon stirred from their slumber and put up 16 points in each of the next two quarters, and 18 in the last, to win by a 14-point margin – the same margin they held with the two teams first met in December, when the Grizzlies tamed the Dragons 57-43.
But Boles gave high marks to his team for their competitive spirit and play.”Our defensive execution and intensity was at a high level,” he said. “We were in the game the entire way, just could not get shots to fall consistently.”