North Central League IV favorite Sonoma Academy made an early advantage hold up in the final minutes to upend host St. Vincent, 40-37, Friday night in DeCarli Gym.
The Coyotes trailed only once in the contest on an opening basket by Rory Morgan, then pulled away to a 6-2 advantage after eight minutes of play and never looked back. Morgan’s hoop proved to be the only score of the period for the cold-shooting Mustangs, who were content to bomb away from the perimeter with little success (1-13).
Sonoma maintained a double-digit lead throughout the first half, led by the shooting of senior guard Chance Colbert. Colbert got clean looks from long range, and he netted a couple of 3-point shots as the Coyotes continued to hold a double-digit lead.
Second-shot opportunities on rebounds by the visitors also crippled the chances of the Mustangs, who trailed, 19-9, at halftime.
St. Vincent finally got its offense in gear behind the top-of-the-key shooting of Miguel Bunting. Bunting found separation as the Mustangs moved the ball quickly, and he buried three triples to pull the Mustangs to within five points twice in the stanza.
The Mustangs rotated players in and out of the lineup, but they struggled to get anything in the paint as the Coyotes held the lead the rest of the way behind Colbert and sophomore Eli Bayer.
A long 3-pointer by Bunting in the final seconds narrowed the gap to 40-37, but it proved to be only window dressing as Sonoma (9-4) got out of town with a victory to hold on to first place in the league race.
The pressure is now on the Mustangs (1-1) to run the table in league play and catch Sonoma Academy in their home rematch on Jan. 29. Bunting had a productive outing with a team-leading 18 points and three assists. Morgan chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Colbert had 16 points for the Coyotes, and Bayer added 14, with nine coming in the crucial fourth stanza.
Comeback falls short
In the girls game, Sonoma Academy held off a terrific comeback by the Lady Mustangs and won their initial North Central League IV meeting, 38-34.
The Lady Coyotes pressed in full-court situations after baskets or turnovers, and it bothered St. Vincent through most of the game. The Mustangs turned the ball over too many times in the early going, and trailed, 11-0, at the end of the first stanza.
Julia Murphy and Sully Henry, who both missed the previous win over Calistoga, entered the game in the second period, and it made a difference for the Mustangs. St. Vincent finally hit its offensive stride with matching baskets, but the margin was 23-11 at halftime in favor of the Coyotes.
Led by Henry and ball-hawking guard Alexandra Saisi, the Mustangs began to whittle away at the Coyotes’ lead, and cut the margin to two points twice in the fourth period. The closest the deficit got, however, was 34-32 with three minutes remaining.
The Coyotes got a 3-point shot, St. Vincent missed on four consecutive free-throw opportunities inside the 3-minute mark and the outcome was sealed.
Henry led the way with 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench, followed by Saisi with eight points and Murphy, in her first game back, with six. Alex Ditizio also had six points in the first half for St. Vincent. Saisi spent a lot of time diving on the floor and made seven crucial steals.