It has been a long, twisting and sometimes tortuous road for the Petaluma High School boys basketball team, but it ended at a happy destination Friday night when the Trojans held on to defeat Elsie Allen, 56-49.
Petaluma finishes out its season at Sonoma Valley Friday, but last week's game was the final home court appearance for Clay Swanson, Jaymes Potts, Eric Hunsicker, Noah Forrey, Augie Bundeson and Nathan kirk. Coach John Behrs started an all-senior lineup and they responded with an emotional all-out effort.
"I'm happy for the seniors," said Behrs. "This win was awesome for them. It was great to see the gym full and a lot of kids here. It was like old times. This gives the program something to build on."
"It was a good way for us to go out at home," said Hunsicker, who has been a team leader and the Trojans' main force underneath the basket all season. "This was my last game at home and I left it all on the court."
"It was a pefect way for us to end on our court," agreed Bundesen, who contributed aggressive defensive play and rebounding all season. "It was exciting at the end."
He was referring to a fourth-quarter Elsie Allen comeback that sliced a 16-point Petaluma third-quarter lead to three points in the final minute before the Trojans finally took charge for good.
Petaluma played aggressively from the start, with all five starting seniors — Potts, Hunsicker, Swanson, Forrey and Bundesen scoring in the opening quarter as the Trojans slipped in front, 10-7,
Petaluma continued to play with fire, harass Elsie Allen's Lobos with aggressive defense and attack the basket in the second quarter. The trouble was, the Trojans couldn't put the ball through the hoop if they had been standing on a ladder. Time after frustrating time, second and third efforts refused to find the basket and some of the Petaluma shots were fortunate to hit the backboards.
Still, a big 3-point connection by Potts and pair of late free throws from Bundesen kept the Trojans to within two at 21-19, at the break.
Things turned completely around for the Petalumans in one of their most impressive quarters of the season when they returned from the intermission.
Suddenly, the Trojans did everything right. They scored from inside — four buckets from in close. The scored from outside — two 3-pointers from Clay Swanson and another from Potts. They scored from the free throw line — four of five in the period with Hunsicker, Potts and Bryce Kawaguchi all contributing.
By the end of the period, Petaluma led, 42-26, and the large Petaluma rooting section was having a great time.
Then the Lobos, led by irrepressible, and at times irresistible, Angel Sanchez, charged.
Petaluma again found baskets hard to find, Sanchez and Joe Hoeup shot (and sometimes hit) from all over the court, Elsie Allen put on an 11-0 run, and with 50 seconds left, the Lobos trailed by only one long-range basket, 50-47.
Flashes of a nightmare game earlier in the season at Elsie Allen when the Lobos rallied from 10 points down to win on a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by Sanchez flashed through the Trojans' collective minds.
"I saw their heads hanging a little," acknowledged Behrs, but we regrouped and went out with a little fire."