Sammy and Andreas Cervantes don’t instantly jump out as star basketball players, besides Andreas’ flashy shoes that resemble strawberry salt water taffy.
The Middletown twins are barely six foot and aren’t particularly flashy during warm ups. But the duo flips a switch when games start, as the Saints found out on Friday evening.
Middletown used a massive run at the end of the first quarter to create enough cushion to eventually breeze to a 55-45 victory over St. Helena in the Saints’ North Central League I opener.
“That is a very good basketball team that we just played and they are one of the top two teams in our league,” St. Helena head coach Jim Gamble said. “They are a lot bigger than we are and they have some really good basketball players. I was really proud of the effort that the kids gave us tonight. The kids just worked their tails off and they just hustled.”
The Mustangs (9-4, 2-0 NCL I) opened the contest on a 4-0 run, but the Saints countered with a 6-0 burst of their own. Unfortunately for St. Helena (5-7, 0-1 NCL I) six points would be tall it’d score in the quarter. Middletown went on a 12-0 run to end the frame.
The Cervantes twins took over the contest early as Andreas had 13 points in the first half. St. Helena had open shots for most of the game, but the opportunities weren’t turning into points. The Mustangs’ lead ballooned to over 20 points during the second quarter and the visitors from Middletown headed into the break ahead 34-15.
“We only scored six points in first quarter and then nine in the second quarter,” Gamble said. “It was a tough first half for us, but the kids played hard and we were getting good looks from the three point line. Some nights the ball just doesn’t go down and this was one of those nights.”
Middletown had one clear advantage heading into the contest: size. Second chance opportunities weren’t materializing for the Saints, as Middletown outrebounded them, 48 to 29 for the game.
The Cervantes’ brothers were a big key to that. Andreas grabbed 18 rebounds in the game to go along with his 17 points. Meanwhile, Sammy had 13 points and four rebounds.
“(Andreas) may be the best player in the league and he is such a quick leaper,” Gamble said. “He is an amazing athlete and he has a tremendous ability to finish inside given his smaller size. He is just a really good basketball player.”
St. Helena switched to a full court press in the second half and had solid results. The Saints held the Mustangs offense to only eight points in the third but scored ten. Nick Jeworowski gave the Saints a burst of energy in the second half, as the senior small forward added nine points, eight rebounds and two vicious blocks for the game.
St. Helena trailed by 17 points heading into the final quarter and pulled the contest within 10 points by the final horn. Jonathan Gamble led the way for the Saints, scoring a team-high 12 points and adding three rebounds.
“We ran a full court press for the first time this season in the second half. We put a lot of pressure on them and we gained 15 points on them,” Gamble said. “That's a real positive to take into next week. The kids keep getting better and better. I am really proud of their commitment to practicing and getting better over the Christmas break.”
The Saints have a packed slate this week as league play heats up. They’ll welcome Willits (4-9, 0-2 NCL I) on Tuesday, travel to Lower Lake (9-4, 1-0 NCL I) on Wednesday and then square off with Kelseyville (3-11, 0-2 NCL I) on Friday.