The Calistoga boys basketball team was one quarter away from winning the same amount of games in one day, as they won all of last season. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, a fourth quarter collapse against Summerfield Waldorf-Santa Rosa left Calistoga with a 1-1 tournament record after the first day of the Gene Duffy Sr. Holiday Classic on Wednesday. Overall it was a positive day for the Wildcats, especially with the hosts finally notching their second full practice earlier this week.
“We are going to be an OK team, there is no question about it,” Calistoga coach Ray Particelli said. “We played the best half of basketball I have seen Calistoga play in at least a decade. I am happy with the first half and in the second half the frustration showed itself.”
Calistoga dominated their first game of the afternoon against North Hills Christian-Vallejo, with the Wildcats cruising to a 56-32 victory over the Eagles. Cesar Ayala led the way for Calistoga, as the senior guard had a game high 24 points while pulling down two rebounds. A key to the contest was the rebounding ability of the smaller Wildcats. They pulled down 37 rebounds to North Hills Christians 24.
The win over the Eagles, paired with the Wildcats’ win over Rincon Valley Christian earlier this year, has put the Calistoga over their season total for wins last year, when the 2017 squad went 2-18.
“We played awesome, we did all the right plays that coach wanted us to do and played great defense,” junior Jesus Mendoza said. “The best thing we did for this game was rebound the ball.”
Calistoga led 8-7 late in the first quarter and ended the first frame on a 6-0 run. The Eagles were a one man squad, with Jonathan Wallace scoring seven points in the first quarter. The junior guard finished with nine points as the North Hills Christian offense collapsed for the remainder of the game. The Wildcats picked up the scoring pace in the second quarter and put on the clamps. Mendoza had two three-pointers in the quarter to help Calistoga outscore North Hills Christian 20-6. Mendoza finished with 11 points while pulling down 5 rebounds and nabbing four steals for the game.
“It was perfect to get in some practice for these games. We learned new plays and ran the offense more. We are starting to get it into our heads,” Mendoza said. “We did good today, we showed up and won.”
The Eagles climbed back within 14 points, but the Wildcats held the visitors to only three points in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory. Christian Caldera continues to be effective at the varsity level. The freshman point guard ended the game with 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“Last year was kind of hard for us, without Cesar (Ayala), our number one player,” Mendoza said. “This year we have more players that have passion for the game. It really helps us win more games than last year.”
In Calistoga’s second game of the day, a matchup with Summerfield Waldorf, the Wildcats experienced both super highs and deep lows. Summerfield Waldorf used a 15-6 fourth quarter to pull away from Calistoga for a 50-34 win. The Mustangs jumped out to a quick lead with some sharp three-point shooting from Hudson Yoxall, but the Wildcats pulled within six at the end of the first quarter.
Ayala struggled for the Wildcats, with the normal Calistoga hot-hand cold in the second game of the day.
The Wildcats had one of their best quarters of the season in the second, as the hosts were glued to their opponents on the defensive end of the floor. Calistoga, after being down by 10 early on, tied the game at 23-23 with one minute remaining in the half. But the Mustangs made a shot at the buzzer to head into the break with a 25-23 lead.
Christopher Lockwood had 10 points in the first half for Summerfield Waldorf and the senior wouldn’t be stopped on Wednesday evening. The guard hit two key three-pointers in the second half and finished with a game-high 17 points. The west Santa Rosa-based squad started to pull away in the third quarter as they improved their lead to 35-29 heading into the fourth.
Everything went wrong for the Wildcats in the final frame, with Mustangs forward Dillon Behling gobbling up rebounds like a kid in a candy store. The senior went home with 11 points and nine rebounds in the game. Jasiel Flores picked up his fourth foul early into the quarter and was sent to the locker room after an altercation on the Wildcats bench. Calistoga would only score five points in the final frame.
“Our team grew and our team in the first half showed that we are capable of pretty solid basketball,” Particelli said. “That was a pretty good team. They have size. ... They have shooters. ... They have speed. We aren’t going to out run them or out rebound them. All and all I am happy with the day.”
Caldera led the way in defeat for the Wildcats, with the multi-sport athlete scoring a team-high 11 points while grabbing 11 rebounds for a double-double. Even with the defeat Calistoga has a 3-2 record against Division 6 opponents and the season is looking up for the Wildcats.
“At 3-1 or 3-2 in Division 6, this is a better start than I could have dreamed of,” Particelli said. “So I am happy with that. There is no one so bad that we can be overconfidence about. The fact that we got three wins, we are playing great basketball.”