The Napa High boys basketball team had to settle for fourth place in the Wine Valley Tournament after Bethel held on for a 46-43 victory in the third-place game on Saturday.

Head coach Zack Cook said it was a game that the Indians (2-2) could have won, even though they didn’t play their best.

“We had a lot of missed layups and jump shots that went in and out,” he said. “It was just one of those days. We didn’t play great, but all credit to Bethel.”

Bethel was the quicker team, and Napa did not take advantage of its big size advantage inside. The Indians’ big man, Mitch Hippauf, dominated down low and led them with 14 points.

“Mitch had a good game, “ Cook acknowledged. “We talked to him about being more aggressive and active today and he definitely rose to the occasion. We were really happy with how he played.”

Napa actually led 18-13 after a low-scoring first half, with Vince O’Kelley having scored the last five points of the second quarter. But the momentum did not carry over to the second half.

The Indians came out flat and Bethel nailed back-to-back 3-pointer to take a 19-18 lead before the first minute of the third quarter had gone by. Napa scored only seven points in the quarter and Bethel took at 29-25 lead into the fourth.

“They hit a couple of threes to the start the second half and we turned the ball over a couple of times and Bethel really feeds off that,” Cook noted.

Bethel extended its lead to nine before Napa mounted a furious comeback that fell just short. O’Kelley’s last-second heave from the corner was off the mark, and the final buzzer sounded.

“I was happy with our effort in the fourth quarter,” Cook emphasized. “It wasn’t our night, but we made a game of it. Looking ahead, we just need to take care of the ball more.”

Hippauf led Napa with 14 points, while Zach Swim added 10. O’Kelley and Joe Carnazola had six points apiece, Danny Ruiz chipped in five, and Charles Gravett had two to round out the scoring for the Indians.

El Capitan 52, Napa 34

The Gauchos of Merced blew by the game but overmatched Indians in Friday night’s semifinal. El Capitan came out in a full-court press and had an 8-0 lead before fans had a chance to settle in their seats.

O’Kelley finally got Napa on the board at the 5:35 mark and the Indians settled down and broke the Gauchos’ press for several good opportunities. Unfortunately for Napa, the ball just wasn’t falling.

The Gauchos again picked up the pace and ran out to a 17-7 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

Cook was philosophical after the game, giving full credit to El Capitan.

“I thought we kept fighting and playing hard; we didn’t just lay down and feel sorry for ourselves,” the coach noted. “We tried to keep trying to do what we wanted to do, and battled all four quarters, even though it wasn’t much of a game after the first quarter.

“When you turn it over and they get out in transition, they’re impossible to stop. We haven’t seen that kind of speed this year. They’re very fast and just a different level of speed than we are used to. Their pressure defense and full-court press definitely frazzled us.”

When the Gauchos weren’t scoring on fast breaks, they were bombing away from 3-point range with deadly accuracy.

“They get the tempo going and they just wear you out,” Cook observed. “They have a deep bench and they did what they wanted tonight. They’re really balanced, they have 3-point shooters, good ball handling guards, they have big guys that defend well and do their job.

“I usually enjoy watching them (El Capitan) play,” Cook added, shaking his head, “but not tonight.”

Gravett made a clever flip shot in the key to keep the Indians close as the second quarter began. When Sammy Morales nailed a 3-pointer to cut the Gaucho lead to 19-12, it looked like Napa might get back into this one. But just as the Indians seemed to be regaining their poise and rhythm, El Capitan’s TJ Wills drained two 3-pointers and Mark Sellers chipped in a three of his own to kill the Napa comeback. The Gauchos outscored Napa 17-7 for the second quarter in a row and took a commanding 34-14 lead to the locker room at halftime.

Napa came out with some fight in the third quarter and kept El Capitan from expanded its 20-point lead. When Morales nailed a creative inside shot, the Indians actually cut the lead to 41-23 with 2:23 left in the quarter. But then the Gaucho press again rattled them. Speedy guard Steve Yang forced several Napa turnovers, leading to a 47-23 lead after three quarters. It was a clearly frustrated Napa side that trudged to the bench for a meeting with Coach Cook.

But game or not, Napa had very little left for the fourth quarter, scoring only four points in the first six minutes of the final stanza.

El Capitan head coach Adrian Hurtado emptied his bench, seeing the victory was in hand, allowing Napa to score several points in garbage time to make it an 18-point final margin.

Morales led Napa with nine points, while Gravett chipped in seven. Carnazola had five points, Ruiz had four, Swim contributed three points, and Alex Kokotas and O’Kelley had two points apiece for the Indians.

El Capitan’s Mark Sellers led all scorers with 17 points.

El Capitan went on to fall to Antelope in Saturday's championship game, 62-48.

Napa returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Sonoma Valley at 7 p.m.

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