Padres too quick and experienced

For the first minute or two of Saturday’s Central Coast Section
Division I boys hoop quarterfinal between No. 7 Hollister and No. 2
Serra at Santa Clara High, the Balers’ size advantage looked like
it might be the ticket to a pass into the semifinals.
SANTA CLARA – For the first minute or two of Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division I boys hoop quarterfinal between No. 7 Hollister and No. 2 Serra at Santa Clara High, the Balers’ size advantage looked like it might be the ticket to a pass into the semifinals.

But, this Padres team is too experienced and too skilled to let a little size problem get in their way. Serra out-quicked the Balers 75-47 behind the three-headed monster of Vic Esposto, J.J. Cannizaro and Andrew Kochevar, the West Catholic Athletic League Player of the Year.

Though, Kochevar was restrained to eight points due to the gutty defense of Hollister guard Broc Sondgroth, the atttention awarded Kochevar opened it up for Esposto and Cannizaro to hurt the Balers in the Padres’ spread offense.

Esposto had a game-high 21 points, while Cannizaro had 19. All three players are three-year starters and their experience playing together showed. They ran the floor, had good spacing and never took a bad shot. Esposto was particularly deadly with a left handed shot on the run off the backboard. The three players did it on defense, too, helping to create 18 Baler turnovers. Hollister head coach David Kaplansky, whose youthful Balers might be matched up with the Padres (22-5) next year in CCS, is glad to be rid of the troika.

“Serra hurt us with their penetration,” said Kaplansky. “They broke our defense down and found the open man. Our youth showed tonight, but we’ll be a better team next year because of it.”

Sondgroth, playing at “85 percent” after a bout with the flu last week, did a credible job denying Kochevar the ball. However, it drained Sondgroth on the offensive end as he ended the day with just two of three from the line.

“I was still tyring to get my legs back,” said Sondgroth.

“The Hollister kid should be commended for the defensive job he did on Andrew,” said Serra coach Chuck Rapp. “I tip my hat to him.”

The Balers went up 3-0 on a three-point play from Kevin Zanella. Kyle Sharp scored inside and it was 5-2 Hollister. Serra settled down and went on a 10-0 run when Kevin Ochoa fed Cannizaro for a hoop to lead 12-5. Jason Sims follow shot late in the period brought the Balers to within a respectable 15-10 after the first frame and very much in it.

Down 27-14, Eric Davis dimed to Danny Brooks for a hoop. Brooks followed that with a tough banker and the Balers were down just nine with ample time left. Kaplansky called timeout with 2:40 left in the period to rest his players for the final first half push. The Padres were the ones that came out revitalized and went on a 7-0 run to lead by 16 at the half.

The Padres slowly extended their lead in the third period, outscoring the Balers 24-16 in doing so. A Kochevar trey gave Serra a 50-26 bulge. Sharp drained a three-pointer for 54-30 Serra. Gilbert Rubio bombed away for a three-pointer in his last game as a Baler. Brooks had the shot of the day when he tossed in an off-balance tip from the left side. But the Balers could never get enough stops (only seven Padres turnovers for the game) nor could they keep pace with the Padres in the scoring department.

Sharp, in particular, had some good looks in the first half, but the ball couldn’t find the net. Still, he had enough to impress Rapp.

“He looked good when I saw him on tape,” said Rapp of Sharp. “He has a good upside. I like him because he can go inside and out. He’s going to be a big-time player.”

“If we could have knocked down some shots early, we might have been able to stay in it,” said Sharp, a sophomore. “We had a lot of open looks.”

Sharp, Brooks and Anthony Butler each had 10 points for the Balers, who finished the season 21-8.

“We had a great season,” said Kaplansky. “We accomplished a lot this year. I’m proud of the season these kids had.”

Baler bits: Serra meets Salinas, the Tri-County Athletic League champ, in Tuesday’s semis. Piedmont Hills and Bellarmine meet in the other semifinal. – The 28-point margin was the second worst loss for Hollister in CCS boys basketball play. The Balers were leveled by Willow Glen 93-56 in 1980. – Hollister was 2-of-9 from three-point land. The Padres were 4-of-10. – The game was whistled tightly in the first half, but loosely in the second half for some reason, which didn’t go unnoticed by Kaplansky. – Seven seniors played their last game for Hollister: Sondgroth, Rubio, Brooks, Jeff Fajardo, Andrew Leon, Matt Leal and Thomas Fernandez. All played on Saturday.

Hollister 10 8 16 13 – 47

Serra

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