Scott Liggett scored 14 points, Kahale Warring grabbed 14 rebounds and threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk to lead the Wildcats over Downey Saturday and hand new Sonora head coach Dan Dona his first victory.
“It was definitely fun,” Dona said. “It was fun for me to get my first win in this situation with Rick (Francis) here. Just a fun thing for me and to watch my boys play so well. It’s not really about my first win, but the kids first win under me.”
The season-opening game was held at Columbia College’s Oak Pavilion to honor Sonora’s legendary coach Rick Francis who stepped down at the end of last season after 37 years and 659 victories, the most in Sac-Joaquin Section history.
Dona presented Francis a plaque made of hardwood from Sonora High’s Bud Castle Gym.
And then the ole’ ball coach, who’s still Sonora’s athletic director and an assistant for the rejuvenated Claim Jumpers, watched the Wildcats throttle Downey 53-23.
The Wildcats held the Knights without a field goal in the first half and through the first minute of the second.
Sonora jumped out to a 14-1 lead in the first quarter behind six points from point guard Will Collamer. The senior twice out hustled Knights to loose balls and set the ball-hawking tone for the Wildcats, who made 13 steals.
“That’s Dona’s coaching strategy right there, we’re working defense first always,” Collamer said. “I thought we played well together and it was good to see the team really come together.”
“I thought the boys pressured the ball really well,” Dona said. “We’re a pretty quick team. With the guys who are quick combined with the guys who anticipate so well, we can pressure the ball and I think we can press a little bit.”
Sonora led 22-9 at halftime and the only negative for the Wildcats was that they couldn’t make breakaway layups.
“I think we’ll be running for every missed layup,” Dona said smiling. “We hadn’t been concentrating in practice so I think it kind of carried over. Not that it hurts us in a game like this, but when we get into the Stagg Tournament (Thursday) and when we play Bret Harte Monday (today), they’re a really good team, if we miss layups there, we’re not going to win.”
Sonora held Downey to just six field goals for the game.
Liggett scored his game-high 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting, including 2 for 2 from beyond the arc.
Also for Sonora, Kyle Wolfe scored nine points, including a 3, and made three steals, Collamer finished with six points and four assists, Warring had six points, Matt Howard netted five, Peyton Camacho four, Carter Denton three and Thomas Nelson, Russel Wilson, Gabe Runte had two. Runte also made three blocks.
Sonora will play at Bret Harte tonight at 7:30 in a foundation game that raises money for the Sac-Joaquin Section to provide scholarships to deserving athletes. The game does not count on each team’s overall record. The Bullfrog girls will host the Wildcats to begin the evening at 6.