By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Having your basketball team hold an opponent to just 13 points in three of four quarters allows Cardinal Newman coach Tom Bonfigli to say “we’re very good defensively.” He didn’t say if he was being modest.
The Cardinals rode a stellar defensive performance along with a 21-point night from Corey Hammell to crush Justin-Siena 68-38 on Friday night.
“We play half-court man,” Bonfigili said “That’s what we do. That’s what our guys believe in.”
Having faith in Bonfigli’s system, Newman (7-1) held the Braves scoreless for over eight minutes. The shutout extended from the latter end of the first quarter to 41.6 seconds to go in the first half, when Siena’s Derek Wrenn sank a free-throw for the Braves’ lone point of the second quarter.
In the same period, Hammell caught fire, sinking back-to-back three-point field goals in less than 30 seconds for the first points of the second quarter.
“I liked my looks,” Hammell said. “My teammates got me the ball when I was open. I had my feet set and shot the ball like I normally do, and the ball just went in.”
The threes increased a 10-point Cardinals lead to 16, which exploded to 25 by the time the teams went into the locker room.
The Braves however, made it interesting once the third quarter started, going on a 15-2 run in the first 2:10 of the period to cut the Newman lead to just 13. Siena trailed the Cardinals by 16 heading into fourth, and used another hot start to the period to whittle the deficit to just 11 points. Newman’s defense ended any more hope of a comeback, as the Braves would only score three more points in the final quarter.
Bonfigli said his team could have handled the press better when the game got close.
“I told the kids when it got to about 13 to attack more in the press and they did that,” he said.
Bonfigli said Siena is a better team than the final score showed.
“That’s a good team,” Bonfigli said. “I don’t think they played very well tonight. Very well coached. I think we got on them early and they didn’t play very well.”
The Cardinals dominated the glass, grabbing 36 rebounds, including 17 offensive boards. Newman’s post domination, according to Hammell, took away a key component of the Braves’ game.
“Going into this game, we knew they were going to post a lot and they were going to shoot the three, so we tried to take away their strengths. It was really good defensively how we took care of business,” Hammell said.
The Cardinals play in the Sonoma County Classic, which starts on Dec. 27. Bonfigli said Newman meets Healdsburg in the first game of that tournament.