Santa Clara Stalks a State Basketball Title
Most of the following information on Cardinal Newman High of Santa Rosa will be new to Coach Lou Cvijanovich and his Santa Clara boys’ basketball team.
Santa Clara faces Cardinal Newman for the State Division IV championship Friday night at 7:30 at Ventura College. But that does not mean Santa Clara is spending the week studying film and researching the tendencies of its opponent.
“I don’t believe in scouting by video, especially having players watch it,” Cvijanovich said. “We’ll concern ourselves with ourselves and not our opponent.”
That should not be surprising to those familiar with Cvijanovich, 62, and his ambivalence for technology. This is a coach who says he would like “every television set blown up.”
What is surprising is that Tom Bonfigli, the 35-year-old coach at Cardinal Newman, also prepares the old-fashioned way.
“We won’t watch any video and nobody scouted Santa Clara for us,” said Bonfigli, who is in his eighth season. “I’ve just talked to a lot of coaches about them.”
He also could observe his own team in practice to get a feeling for Santa Clara’s style. The teams are mirror images of one another.
Both are heavy on man-to-man defense, depth and discipline. Both are light on forcing the fast-break or outside shots. And both are accustomed to enjoying a height advantage that will be neutralized Friday.
“We like to play man defense, so do they,” notes Bonfigli, who coached with Cvijanovich at a camp a few years ago. “We are kind of deliberate, so are they.”
Cardinal Newman (31-3), which qualified for the state playoffs as runner-up in the North Coast Section, works the ball inside to one of three starters who stand at least 6-foot-5.
Center Michael Hostetter (6-6) averages 18.2 points and 10.4 rebounds. Hostetter, a senior, scored 29 points in Cardinal Newman’s 62-57 victory over Archbishop Mitty of San Jose for the Northern California championship. “He plays well in big games,” Bonfigli said.
Santa Clara answers with 6-7 Bubba Burrage, a big-game player in his own right. Burrage, a senior who averages 18.6 points and 11.1 rebounds, scored a game-high 19 points in the Saints’ 78-55 win over Washington of Easton for the Southern California title.
Cardinal Newman senior forwards Tom Wellborn (6-6) and Jake Johnson (6-5) are powerfully built players in the mold of Santa Clara forwards John McGill (6-5) and Foster Cole (6-4). Johnson averages 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Santa Clara is led on offense by Shon Tarver, a 6-5 left-hander with a great touch. Tarver, a junior forward, averages 23 points and has shot well over 50% in the playoffs.
Cardinal Newman’s best outside shooter is 6-4 guard Sheridan Silver, who averages 13.6 points and will let fly from behind the three-point line. The fifth starter is 5-10 point guard Ryan Vice. Brad Monahan, a 6-6, 230-pound forward, is the top reserve.
“We are deeper than they are,” Bonfigli said. “I play nine guys every game pretty equally.”
Santa Clara has stayed with its starting five and Cole recently after exhibiting great depth during the regular season. Seniors Bill Lajoie and Leon Palmisano are capable backups for starting guards Art Santana and Kasha Clemons.
A distinct Santa Clara advantage throughout the playoffs has been the superior physical strength of its players. Santana and Clemons look more like bodyguards than basketball guards, and their enormous arms and chests are a tribute to a rigorous weight-lifting program.
Bonfigli, as well, puts his players through year-round weight lifting.
If Santa Clara has an edge, it probably comes from what amounts to a home-court advantage. “I know we’re playing an exceptional team and they have the advantage of playing at home,” Bonfigli said. “It should be at more of a neutral site, but I don’t gripe about things like that.”
“Lou has one of the great programs in the state of California. I respect him as a foe and a great coach, there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is no fear with the respect. We are coming to Ventura for a purpose.”