Defending North Bay League champion Cardinal Newman rushed to a huge early lead and coasted to a convincing 71-45 win over the host Casa Grande High School boys basketball team Friday night.
Rated by Max Preps as the top North Coast Section team in Division IV.the Cardinals (12-1) opened the game by connecting on seven of their first 10 shots from the floor and never looked back, in spite of some alternating defenses attempted by the Gauchos. Newman seemingly could do nothing wrong, quickly adjusting to each defensive change. At one time, they led by 28 points in the second period.
Newman Coach Tom Bonfigli started five veteran senior players, who played a poised game on both ends of the court, scoring liberally on offense and closing down the Gaucho attack on the other end. Center Corey Hammell (6-feet, 6-inches) led the way by rattling in 17 points in the first half as the Cardinals left the floor at halftime leading, 41-16.
Hammell had a variety of moves with the basketballin the painted area, and repeatedly got good position for close shots underneath. For good measure, Hammell drifted outside the arc and drained three shots to help maintain the big Cardinal margin.
The Newman offense was directed by Kenny Love, who found several willing shooters open on the opposite side of the floor with some pin point over head passes.
Casa was limited to an outside shooting attack paced by junior shooting guard Cetrick Yeanay. Yeanay connected on a pair of 3-pointt shots early, but it spelled the only major offensive threat until the second half when things evened out a bit. Newman looked for him defensively, but the Gauchos countered with the energy of a hobbled Jake lelmorini, who kept play alive underneath with hustling efforts around the key.
Nine Casa turnovers in the first half crippled any chances at shot opportunities and a chance to get off the deck in the early going.
A combination of halftime adjustments made by coach James Forni and improved offensive play by the Gauchos evened things up in the third stanza when Casa outscored the Cardinals,20-18.
Two more shots from distance by Yeanay and a sudden burst of offense by reserve forward Aaron Dal Pogotto brought some life back into the gym.
Dal Pogotto hit a couple of 3-point shots and added two more around the basket for 10 points in the period.