St. Vincent girls play for NCL II Tournament title

Nothing is free and that includes unmolested shots from the stripe in basketball. The St. Vincent boys basketball team found out Thursday night that someone has to pay for "free" throws. That someone in the second round of the North Central League II Tournament was St. Vincent. The Mustangs were peppered with overtime free throws by Rincon valley Christian's Eagles in a 57-46 loss. The defeat takes the Mustangs out of the tournament and advances the Eagles into tonight's championship game.

The St. Vincent girls, meanwhile, scrambled their way into tonight's championship game by shooting by Upper Lake, 44-31. The Mustangs will face Roseland Prep for the tournament title this evening at 6:30 p.m.. in the Lawrence Jones Middle School gym in Rohnert Park. Roseland Prep defeated Sonoma Academy, 38-22, Thursday.

The St. Vincent boys let its game slip away after leading Rincon Valley Christian almost the entire long and physical game. After chasing the Mustangs all the way, the Eagles tied the game at 43-43 on a pair of free throws just nine seconds from the finish of regulation play.

Rincon Valley Christian made only two baskets in the overtime period. The Eagles did, however, hit 10 of 15 freebees in the added frame. St. Vincent, by contrast, made just one of eight from the line in the overtime, and didn't score its only basket of the period until just before the final buzzer after the game had long been decided.

Until the fatal final flurry of foul-line activity, the Mustangs had seemed to dominate the game. They didn't, however, really put the Eagles away, letting them hang around and hang around until finally they had everything even and the game was headed into overtime.

While the first four quarters of the game were intensely played, with both sides crashing the boards and the floor in pursuit of the fickle basketball, the extra period was a yawning parade to the foul line, with Rincon valley Christian rarely missing and St. Vincent rarely hitting.

For the game, the Mustangs were offered 29 free throws and converted 12. The Eagles shot an astronomical 39 times from the stripe and converted 27.

Zack Pierson, who was unstoppable going to the hoop early and had another brief, but productive, scoring spurt at the outset of the second half, led St. Vincent with 14. The Mustangs shot infrequently from the outside, but did get key 3-point connections from Patrick Garcia and sparkplug point guard Max Cowell.

Driving machine James Leng took the ball to the hoop for four Rincon Valley Christian baskets, and also was awarded 12 free throws, converting on eight for 16 points for the Eagles. Dale Watkins added 12 points for RVC.

Girls never trail

As defending regular-season champion, the St. Vincent girls received a first-round bye and rolled to their third win of the season over Upper Lake, despite having starters Ursyla Baumgarten and Rebecca Dodele out with injuries. Upper Lake didn't make it easy for the Mustangs, refusing to let the Mustangs run away with the game.

St. Vincent's Grace Jennings canned a 3-point shot for the game's first basket and the Mustangs never trailed. Fueled by strong play from Olivia DeGraca, St. Vincent led after the first quarter, 14-5, and looked on its way to a romp. It didn't happen.

Upper Lake's rugged center, Jojo Augustine, scored the final four points of the half to keep the Cougar deficit in single digits (20-13).

Jennings drove for two impressive hoops and hit a 3-pointer as the Mustangs' lead swelled to 12 (34-22) by the end of the third period. Beyond-the-arc hits by Maddie Perry and Taylor Owen helped St. Vincent close out the fourth quarter in style.

Jennings finished with 15 points to lead all scorers.