If you were to ask any member of the Calistoga boys basketball team if a past version of the squad would have won a game with rock solid defense and free throws, they would think you were crazy. The 2018-2019 squad has been a program changing team, proved evermore on Saturday with the boys closing out a 43-36 victory over a potential playoff team in Ferndale.
“I don’t think defense and holding a team to two points even belong in the same sentence when talking about past teams. A huge thing this season has been on defense and discipline,” Jasiel Flores said. “We are a small team, so we have to put more effort on the defensive end then other teams. We are starting to get to our potential, but we still need catch with the end of the season coming.”
The Wildcats continue to improve on the defensive end, as the hosts held the visitors from Humboldt County to only 11 points in the second half. Flores led the way for Calistoga scoring a game-high 13 points with most of his damage coming after the halftime break. The game was close for the whole contest, as the two squads were tied after both the first and second quarters. Calistoga took a 36-34 advantage into the final frame and took over.
“Watching a kid that some people may have given up on and seeing him blossom, that’s what makes coaching fun,” Calistoga coach Ray Particelli said. “I identified his love for the game and have taken his fire and passion in the right direction.”
The fourth quarter was a monster moment for the program heading forward. Calistoga was rabid on defense, contesting every shot attempt by Ferndale to ensure that no easy looks were given up. The Wildcats from up north only scored two points in the quarter and those two points weren’t easy, as Lane Branstetter hit a falling-down, turn-around put back late in the quarter.
Calistoga offense wasn’t humming either in the fourth quarter, but they took care of the ball and finished the game on the free throw line. With four different players all hitting free throws in the final minute to clinch the monumental win.
“That truly was a marquee win for us,” Particelli said. “We finally have all our players and are finding some continuity and finally showing what we thought we were going to be showing this year.”
After only winning two games last season the Wildcats may have a chance at the postseason this season, with the Ferndale victory being a glowing mark on their resume. Calistoga improves to 9-13 overall on the year and are importantly 6-3 versus Division 6 opponents. The main question will be if the Wildcats have a strong enough slate of victories to sneak into the field of 16.
“It feels really good of much we have progressed from the beginning of the year to right now,” Christian Caldera said. “It shows that the work is paying off. We just have to keep doing it, because it keeps working.”
In other results from the past week:
Calistoga Boys 47, Roseland Collegiate
Calistoga pulled off an impressive feat Friday evening, defeating Roseland Collegiate Prep 47-39 to complete a three-game season sweep of the Grizzlies from Santa Rosa.
After losing their only meeting with the Grizzlies last season in their opener, 42-26, the Wildcats handled them 60-48 this December and again in January, 41-34.
Caldera led the way this time with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.
“Coming off a two-win season and being the doormat, the program is starting to gain respect with these eight wins,” Particelli said after Friday’s game. “Even the teams that beat us have to beat us. We just don’t mail it in.”
Roseland Collegiate Prep took its only lead of the game in the opening minutes, 4-3, but the hosts quickly bounced back on an 8-0 run. Calistoga led 15-13 after the first quarter, but it was the second quarter that sealed the victory for the Wildcats. They held the Grizzlies to three points in the frame to take a 32-16 lead into the halftime break.
Senior small forward Cesar Ayala was huge in the first half, scoring 11 of his game-high 14 points, and the Wildcats were tight on Roseland Collegiate Prep star Alex Rizo. The senior, who had scored 25 points in the first meeting of the season, had zero points at halftime before ended up with a team-high 14.
Calistoga received solid showings from Joey Russo (10 points) and Flores (nine), and outrebounded Roseland Collegiate Prep 37-17.
Calistoga Girls 57, Roseland Collegiate Prep 10
The girls game didn’t take nearly as long to decide, as the Wildcats led 14-0 before the Grizzlies got on the board. But Particelli wasn’t exactly please with Calistoga’s effort.
“We were pretty casual to start the game, but we got a wake-up call at halftime,” Particelli said. “It’s not about winning, it’s about us playing the best game that we can. I was happy about our performance in the second half.”
Calistoga (11-9, 3-3 NCL IV) needs to win only one of its final three games to have the .500 record or better needed to reach the postseason.
“We tell the girls all the time that you can’t just turn on the switch,” Particelli said. “Against a good team, if you play a sluggish first half, then you are done. We talked about that a little at halftime.”
Litzy Infante led the Wildcats with a game-high 20 points while pulling down four rebounds, and fellow junior guard Vanesa Queipo added 13 points while grabbing nine rebounds and snatching eight steals. Junior post player Laila Elkeshen was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
The Grizzlies were in trouble from the start. Main scorer Lindsey Arellano injured her wrist early and, noticeably bothered by it for the remainder of the contest, finished with a team-high three points. Roseland Collegiate Prep committed 36 turnovers for the game and was outrebounded 38-16.
“For Division 6, we are a formidable team and it is going to take a good team to beat us,” Particelli said. “We play great defense, especially at the Division 6 level.”