St. Vincent opened the regular boys basketball season by racing to an early lead over Valley Christian of Roseville, but the Mustangs were forced to rebuild an advantage in a furious 88-77 win in Boonville last week.
The evening contest was part of the first round of the 56th annual Redwood Classic for 16 small schools held at Anderson Valley High School.
Valley Christian came into the contest after averaging 80.9 points per game last season and a third-place finish in the Sacramento Metro Athletic League. The Lions played a swarming brand of defense and pressured each inbound pass, which forced a hectic up-and-down the floor game that was pleasing for the fans, but exhausting for everyone at the official scoring bench.
Along the way, Valley Christian cranked up 19 shot attempts from beyond the arc, with several coming from NBA distance. Many of the Lion shots were hoisted after only one pass on the offensive end.
Coach Brad Gunter of Valley Christian substituted his 15 players in multiples of five in an effort to run away with the contest, but the Mustangs were able to crack the press with long passes leading to easy baskets at the other end of the floor.
"We've never seen anything like this before," said St. Vincent coach Lance Phillips. "This was quite an experience."
One Mustang who completely took off the back-court pressure was senior forward Mike Pierson, who consistently leaked out for lead passes, and riddled the nets with 30 points in the first half alone. Pierson drove hard to the basket after taking one-handed passes from Alex Neve and Max Cowell, and paced the Mustangs to a seemingly comfortable 50-31 halftime lead.
The ability of Cowell and Neve to throw accurate passes for distances helped to feed Pierson, and the Lions did not adjust with each five-player unit substituted on the floor. Both players have baseball experience.
Finally, in the third quarter, the Lions found their shooting stride by knocking in seven shots from distance to pull closer at 67-61 at the end of the period. For one brief time, the score was tied at 61-61. Hunter Fenn had eight points in the stanza, and finished with a team-high 17 points. Fenn averaged 10 points per game last season.
Pierson had a career game by continually slashing to the basket, and finished with 48 points. He picked up his third foul late in the first half. The lanky senior was pulled briefly by Phillips in the very late going when he attempted a two-handed dunk that bounced away from the rim, instead of going for his normal driving lay-up try.