The St. Helena boys basketball team finished fourth in the Sutter Home Invitational Tournament at St. Helena High School this weekend. The Saints (2-2) won their first round game over John Swett before dropping their last two to eventual tournament champion Fortuna, and Roseland University Prep.
Senior forward Nick Jeworowski was the lone Saint named to the all-tournament team. He averaged 12.6 points over St. Helena’s three games.
“Looking back on the tournament, I’m so happy we played two very good basketball teams in Fortuna and Roseland University Prep, because that’s going to help us immensely as we prepare for the league season,” St. Helena head coach Jim Gamble said the Saints’ practice on Monday. “These games this past weekend were great in that we were able to go back and watch film and really pin down what we’re doing well and the things that we need to improve on.”
Here’s a game-by-game roundup of the weekend for the Saints.
Game one: St. Helena 82, John Swett 40
A 10-point Saints lead after one quarter ballooned to a 24-point advantage by halftime as St. Helena (2-0) overcame a slow start to cruise past John Swett (1-3).
“The kids really pushed the ball well in transition,” said Gamble. “I was really proud of them for that. It’s always good to get a win. John Swett is just very young this year and they saw some things they hadn’t seen before. Hats off to them, they fought and battled the entire game.”
Jeworowski scored a game-high 21 points to lead St. Helena, including two big dunks that ignited the home crowd. Sophomore guard Fawad Muhammad and junior guard Collin Darrall each added 12 and junior forward Caleb Granados chipped in 11 in his first game since coming out from football.
Game two: Fortuna 73, St. Helena 39
The Saints suffered their first loss of the season on Friday night, falling 73-39 to visiting Fortuna High in the semifinals of the annual Sutter Home Invitational Tournament at St. Helena High School.
The game was never in doubt. The Huskies led throughout the contest, holding a commanding 24-2 lead after the first quarter. Fortuna, which was led by Drew Gillette with a game-high 23 points, increased its advantage to 40-12 at halftime and 58-24 after three quarters.
Point guard Jonathan Gamble was the lone Saints’ player in double figures with 10 points. Jeworowski scored eight points, Granados scored six points, Cristian Iano scored four points, and Caleb Jeske had three points. The quartet of George Cutting, Jake Mendes, Jawad Muhammad and Fawad Muhammad scored two points apiece.
Following the game, coach Jim Gamble was very succinct when asked about his message to the team in the locker room following the contest.
“I shared with them, I thought this game was a blessing in disguise, because those kids [on Fortuna]” came out, they are very skilled basketball players,” Gamble explained. “They are strong basketball players and just a beautifully coached basketball team.”
Gamble added he and assistant coach Michael Roche also used their postgame discussion with the team to reinforce a concept and a mindset they have been trying to get the players to embrace since the very first day of practice.
“We talked a lot about buying into the system,” Gamble said. “After a couple blowout wins early in the season, it is so important to have a game like that because it really wakes the kids up and they see what they need to do to compete at the next level.”
The coach cited his team’s ability to sustain a maximum of effort throughout an entire game as one of the essential ingredients necessary if it hopes to enjoy success this season.
“We can’t have any lapses in effort,” Gamble explained. “I thought we came out in the first half (Friday night) without playing maximum effort and that is our key. We’re not very big and so we have to play with full and maximum effort every single play, every single possession and when we take a play or two off… it affects the entire team.”
Game three: Roseland University Prep 55, St. Helena 38
The St. Helena boys basketball team struggled to score all game against Roseland University Prep in the third place game of the Sutter Home Invitational Tournament on Saturday night, eventually succumbing to the Knights, 55-38 to settle for fourth place.
The Saints offensive problems started early and persisted throughout the game. A 26-20 Roseland Prep lead at the half expanded to double-digits by the fourth quarter. Roseland Prep (3-1) led by as much as 18 in the fourth.
“Roseland prep is a very well-coached and very disciplined basketball team,” said Gamble. “They bring tremendous defensive pressure and we handled it well, only being down six at halftime. Our shots weren’t really going down but we were only down six. Then in the second half they still didn’t fall and the game got away from us there at the end.”
Jeske led the Saints with 11 points while Jeworowski had nine and Jonathan Gamble added seven.
Both St. Helena and Roseland University Prep play similar, fast-paced styles. Neither team has much height so their offenses rely on getting up and down the court.
That hurt the Saints (2-2) more than it did the Knights. St. Helena struggled to make shots and giving away possession after possession did nothing to help to their comeback effort.
“We have to do a better job of valuing each possession and limiting our turnovers,” coach Gamble said. “We’re just too careless with our passes right now, and our shots just aren’t going down.”
Junior Jonathan Gamble opened the third quarter on a promising note, draining a floater to cut the deficit to 26-22. But Roseland Prep responded with a dominant 15-2 stretch over the next six minutes.
The Knights extended their lead to 18 in the first minute of the fourth quarter before riding their comfortable lead to the final buzzer.
Even with the fourth place finish, coach Gamble thought the team gained some much-needed experience against tough competition. All four of the teams that St. Helena played were in Division 4. The Saints play in Division 5.
“I thought it was a great experience for the kids playing three bigger schools,” he said. “We’re a young team so we need that experience and I think it’s going to pay huge dividends as we progress through the season.”