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Gauchos sizzle in Sonoma Classic

Casa Grande’s basketball Gauchos thoroughly enjoyed the final weekend of 2017 playing in the Sonoma County Classic basketball tournament hosted by Piner High School. The Gauchos impressively beat the only two teams from the planet Earth they played in the tournament.

Casa did lose its opening game to Las Lomas, 80-36, but the Knights are definitely from another world. Not only did they thump the Gauchos, but they went on to win the tournament championship, beating perhaps the best team in the North Bay, Cardinal Newman, 50-40, and going on to defeat Mt. Eden in an overtime thriller, 71-65, in the finals. The Knights are undefeated in 11 games.

When the Gauchos returned to play teams from their own universe, they rolled over Eureka, 53-46, and Elsie Allen, 61-35, in two similar games.

In both games, the Gauchos took impressive early leads and held on to take home tournament consolation honors.

Best quarter

Casa Grande opened its second game of the tournament with its best quarter of the season, scoring the first 18 points of the game against Eureka.

In a sign of the board domination that followed, Garrett Siebels tipped in a missed shot for the game’s first basket. Before the Loggers realized the game had begun, Siebels had hit a 3-pointer, Scott Nave had also hit from distance and scored five points, Josh Jovick had hit a 3-pointer and scored five points and Nate Busse had dropped in a pair of free throws.

Eureka finally joined the party late in the opening quarter, scoring the final seven points of the period.

“We wanted to push the ball and get points in transition,” said Casa Grande coach Jake Lee. “We did a good job in transition on both offense and defense.”

Playing at the high-energy pace proved to be unsustainable for the Gauchos, but they still reached the half with a seemingly solid 27-18 lead.

Things got Casa scary in the second half, as the Gauchos, if not cold, certainly got chilly, and the Loggers battled back into the game.

“They are a good team. We knew they wouldn’t quit,” said Lee. “We knew that if we fell asleep, they would come back.”

Rally the Loggers did. Sophomore Mile Meynell hit two free throws and Zach Reed drove for a pair, and amazingly Eureka had the lead, 36-35.

Then came senior Ian Cerruti hustling off the Casa bench, bringing with him a contagious energy that brought the Gauchos back to life. It helped that he also brought with him a deadly outside shot. With in the space of less than a minute, he zipped in a pair of 3-point hits and the Gauchos never again trailed.

At the end, the Loggers ran out of steam and Casa’s rebounding superiority and unceasing defense took over. Eureka got to within three on a bomb from Jose Macaraeg, but Noah Bailey hauled down a big rebound off a missed 3-attempt and Casa was able to close it out at the free throw line with Siebels and Jovick doing the connecting.

Casa Grande received contributions from many sources, with Siebels contributing 15 points, Jovick 11, Bailey and Cerruti eight apiece, Nave five and Tony Sabella, Kevin Cadle and Busse two apiece.

Macaraeg led Eureka with 15.

Consolation champs

It was much the same story without the drama in Casa’s win over Elsie Allen in the battle for the consolation championship.

Casa started with the game’s first five points — a 3-pointer by Bailey and a drive by Nave — and went on to lead 12-2, and, at the end of the round, 18-4. Sabella accounted for nine of the points.

The aggressive Cerruti kept driving to the hoop and drawing fouls as the game progressed. He hit 4-of-6 foul shots and scored six points in the second quarter as Casa built a 33-16 lead.

This time, the Gauchos never stumbled. Whatever hopes the Lobos held for a comeback were shot away by Siebels in the third period when he scored 10 points to give the Gauchos a 47-22 lead before Lee turned the game over to his bench for a foul-marked final quarter.

Siebels led a bundle of Casa Grande scorers with 16 points and was chosen to the All-Tournament team.

Now 4-9 on the season, the Gauchos were scheduled to host Maria Carrillo in a North Bay League game Wednesday before traveling to Montgomery on Friday.