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Honkers runner-up at Pierce Invitational
A pair of birds ascended to the championship game of the 46th annual Pierce Invitational Boys Basketball Tournament for a fifth consecutive season, and the Cardinals overwhelmed the inexperienced Honkers 67-42 in Arbuckle.
The victory gave Corning the title for the third time in five years against a Willows team that has just one returning starter from last season.
Michael Shoemaker took home tournament most valuable player honors after averaging more than 17 points a game while leading Corning (4-0) to victories against Live Oak and Biggs. The 6-foot, 6 inch forward joined forward Nick Hoag and guard Chayce Maday on the all-tournament team.
The Honkers opened the tournament with a 67-45 win against East Nicolaus and a 51-50 overtime victory against tournament host Pierce High. Senior center Ryan Amaru and sophomore forward Travis Mendes made the all-tournament team.
Pierce fell just shy of the championship game in their home tournament after the loss to Willows, but the Bears bounced back in the third-place game with a masterful 47-26 victory against Biggs on Friday. Senior guard Jesus Huerta made the all-tournament team after tallying 12 steals in three games.
Live Oak defeated Maxwell 57-36 in the fifth-place game. The Panthers began the tournament with a 36-31 loss to Pierce but responded with a 62-58 win against East Nicolaus. Junior center Zach Troughton averaged more than 10 points a game and was named all-tournament.
Corning 67, Willows 42
Corning opened the championship game with a 31-4 run against the inexperienced Honkers.
The outpouring of offense was an encouraging sign for Corning (4-0), which lost just two starters from last year's team.
"This game is the first time we've actually scored some points but our defense has been with us all year," Mache said.
Willows matched up Amaru on Shoemaker and both ended up with nine points, but the Cardinals didn't need a big game from Shoemaker to win.
Maday scored 17 points, sinking four 3-point shots, and made four steals. Junior forward Nick Hoag scored 17 points of his own but did so in the paint. Senior forward Trevor Skousen added 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
The Cardinals lack a prolific scorer but have many capable weapons in the lineup, Mache said.
"To be a good basketball team you've got to be balanced and these kids have a chance to be really balanced. I think that balance is going to be what carries us through," Mache said.
Amaru, the Honkers only returning starter, scored a team-high nine points but went long stretches without getting his hands on the ball.
The Honkers (2-2) expect some growing pains this season but are talented enough that Honkers coach Darrell Schonauer believes his team will be ready to go by the time league starts.
"We lost four of our starters from last year so we're still in the learning process — and the football team came in late. We're getting it but I think we came out flat tonight, and were playing a good team too," Schonauer added.
Senior J.B. Renfro scored eight points for the Honkers, and juniors Jake Martin and Chris Walter scored six points each. Travis Mendes and Chase Lambert both added five points.
Pierce 47, Biggs 26
The Wolverines made a valiant comeback early in the second half, cutting Pierce's lead to six points, but the Bears put the game out of reach with a 21-6 run to end it.
Pierce (2-2) held Biggs to just two points in the first quarter, and senior forward Andy Corona scored a game-high 17-points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He averaged nearly 15 points a game during the tournament.
"(Corona) is maybe 6-foot but he plays like he's 6-5 or 6-6. He's a strong, solid kid. He's a good threat, a hard mismatch. It's hard to match up with us," Pierce coach Noah Gomez said.
While Corona patrolled the paint, senior guard Hayden Kalfsbeek knocked down two 3-pointers and scored 10 points on the outside. Kalfsbeek averaged more than eight points a game during the tournament.
"Last year, toward the end of the season, (Kalfsbeek) fit into that role of point guard while still being a threat to score and being able to hit the outside shot," Gomez said.
Senior Oscar Dorantes averaged more than 10 points a game during the tournament and chipped in nine points against the Wolverines.
Huerta scored seven points while playing standout defense and swiping six steals. No Biggs player scored more than four points.
The Bears starting five and the first player off the bench are all seniors, and their experience will be critical to Pierce's success this season, including guard Joey Hernandez and forward Preston Smith, according to Gomez.
"They played pretty good last year and finished about .500, but we were in a lot of the games. I think that experience is going to come over and we'll be able to be successful in some of those situations, where last year we were getting our feet wet," Gomez said.
Live Oak 57, Maxwell 36
Live Oak outscored the Panthers 16-5 in the third quarter and withstood a 16-point game from Maxwell's sophomore guard Isaias Martinez in the consolation championship on Friday.
Martinez made three 3-pointers and kept the taller Lions from getting comfortable on defense.
"We're still young. We only have three seniors, the rest are all juniors and one sophomore. It's a different makeup than we were last year," Maxwell coach Forrest Bateman said.
The Panthers (1-2) led 9-7 before Romario Acosta hit a three-pointer that sparked a 16-4 Lions' run. Acosta, an all-tournament guard, scored a game-high 23 points.
Junior center Zach Troughton scored five points against Live Oak and averaged more than 10 points a game during the tournament. His presence inside opened up space on the outside for Martinez and junior guard Santiago Gonzalez, who scored nine points. Senior guard George Barajas scored four points.
"I've got more speed this year and more depth on the bench, we'll learn how to deal with that, I haven't had that in a long time," Bateman said.
Corning 55, Biggs 29
Willows 51, Pierce 50 OT
Maxwell 62, East Nicolaus 58
Corning 32, Live Oak 30
Pierce 36, Maxwell 31
Willows 67, East Nicolaus 45
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.