ST. HELENA — It was a rough weekend for the Calistoga boys basketball team as it finished 0-3 and in eighth place of the Sutter Home Invitational Tournament with a 66-53 loss to John Swett on Saturday afternoon at St. Helena High.
The Wildcats had their chances to pull out a victory during the weekend, but limited practice time and lack of rebounding doomed the young squad.
“The first thing we wanted to do this weekend was get a win instead of going 0-3, but I think we definitely as a whole learned a lot,” Calistoga senior Cesar Ayala said. “For now we are just trying to move on to the game against Tomales on Monday and get back in the gym for practice on Tuesday. We just have to keep working at what we do.”
The Wildcats (1-3) fell 64-36 to Roseland University Prep in the first round on Thursday and Rincon Valley Christian exacted revenge on Friday with a 60-54 victory. The Eagles had lost to Calistoga for the first time in 12 years on Tuesday, 51-45.
“We haven’t practiced much yet, but at least we have seen game speed,” Calistoga co-coach Ray Particelli said. “We should settle down on Monday in a different environment and just do a little bit of the stuff we know and hope that carries us. Tuesday and Wednesday we will have a couple good practices – God knows there is a long list of stuff to work on. Then we take those couple practices and see if we can turn it into a success.”
The Wildcats struggled with rebounding all afternoon, as the larger and more physical Warriors repeatedly had multiple shot possessions. John Swett outrebounded Calistoga 60-29 for the game.
Wing player Tony Neely led the way for the Warriors with 19 points while pulling down 11 rebounds for a double-double. John Swett did struggle with turnovers, which allowed the Wildcats to stay in the game. Between the two squads, the ball was turned over 30 times.
Ayala was a one-man offense for most of the game for the Wildcats, the senior wing scoring their first 12 points. The athletic scorer finished with a game-high 30 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing out two assists, nabbing three steals and swatting two blocks.
Ayala is one of only three seniors on this young Calistoga roster.
“I am trying to lead the way. We have a young freshman point guard and his game speaks for itself,” Ayala said of Christian Caldera, who quarterbacked the football team this fall.
Caldera struggled with scoring in the first half but had a solid game overall, finishing with nine points, four rebounds and four assists.
“Trying to teach him everything I have learned over the years,” Ayala said. “We don’t have many players that have been playing the game for a long time, so I am just trying to teach them everything I know to just improve us as a whole.”
John Swett led 23-15 after the first quarter, after which each offense went cold. Only four total points were scored in the first four minutes and 30 seconds of the second quarter. The Warriors finally came out of their hibernation in the final two minutes before the break and went to the locker room up 37-23.
“I think we have some potential,” Particelli said. “We need to work to get to it and it comes down to that.”
The Wildcats came out with a new energy to start the second half, but once again rebounding was an issue for them. One of Calistoga’s more athletic big men, Robert Romero, went down with an injury early in the third quarter.
“We settled down and tried to do our stuff in the third, but ultimately their domination of the boards killed us.” Particelli said. “They got third and fourth shots on the first six or seven possessions of the second half.”
Calistoga attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter, managing to get within nine points. But Deshawn Black closed out the game for the Warriors, as the lengthy guard had eight points in the second half. For the game, Black had 14 points while pulling down 13 rebounds for a double-double.
“I think we just need to trust in ourselves and obviously we need to have confidence in our shots,” Ayala said. “I think we just need to trust in our teammates and just let their shots fly.”
Even with the disappointing showing, the Wildcats still have potential heading forward if they are able to keep it together. Jesus Mendoza picked up a productive eight points off the bench and Jasiel Flores was a pest to Warriors guards all afternoon.
“Cesar is a good basketball player, Jasiel is a good basketball player, Christian is a good basketball player and Jesus is going to play some good basketball for us,” Particelli said. “We have a bunch of kids that can play pretty well, and now we just need to get it together. It is an excuse, but not being able to practice yet is just ties your hands behind your back.”
The Wildcats will travel to Tomales on Monday to take on the 0-2 Braves. Calistoga has a chance to match last season’s win total with a victory.
“If we played like today after three weeks of practice, I would be demoralized and wouldn’t sleep for a week,” Particelli said. “For not having had a chance to practice anything, it hasn’t been too bad of a week.”