Sonora, S’Ville hoopsters clash tonight

Written by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat December 11, 2012 12:14 am

The stage is set for another chapter in the longtime rivalry between Sonora and Summerville, as the two teams go head-to-head on the basketball court tonight in Tuolumne.

Bragging rights for an entire year will be on the line in the cross-county battle that often pits families, friends and neighbors against each other in an intense but mutually respectful test.

“Someday when you’re old like me you’ll look back and say, ‘Remember when we beat you guys in 2012?’ ” said Sonora head coach Rick Francis. “And that’s the great thing about athletics ... You might gain some bragging rights if you win, but at the same time it’s not the end of the world if you lose.”

“No doubt the kids will be excited because they know each other,” said Bears head coach Ben Watson. “Our season doesn’t rest on this one game, but it’s a great opportunity for parents and supporters to come out and watch kids in the community play some great basketball.”

The Wildcats (4-4) have been mostly dominant in the rivalry since 2004. 

In their past nine meetings, Sonora is 8-1 with the only loss coming in 2010 to a Summerville Bears team that went on to take the Mother Lode League title, reach the final four in the 2010-11 Sac-Joaquin Division IV Section Championships and advance to the second round of the State playoffs.

And the Bears (4-1) feel like Tuesday’s game could serve as a stepping stone to another deep playoff run.

“I’ve talked to the guys that were on the team that beat Sonora and our team is working like they did,” said Bears forward Rosendo Amaya-Wood. “We’ve sort of become like that team because we want to go to the playoffs and do even better than them.”

Amaya-Wood played on a travel team with Sonora’s Ben Bates and Nick Mays and said he’s friends with other players. That familiarity with one another’s strengths and weaknesses promises to set up a game that will not soon be forgotten.

“It’s definitely going to be one of those games people remember,” said Amaya-Wood. “People sort of consider us the underdogs, but I really feel strongly about this team.”

Francis said he’s impressed with what he’s seen and heard from the Bears this season.

“We know Summerville has one of the best teams we’ll play in the preseason, no doubt about it,” he said. “You gotta prepare and (Watson’s) done a great job up there, so it’s going to be fun no matter the outcome. When they toss the ball up we’ll go at each other, but when it’s all over we’ll hug each other.”

That respect is mutual for Watson, who played for the Wildcats JV under Francis in 1974 and started coaching out of college as an assistant to the legendary Sonora basketball boss in 1981.

The two remain good friends to this day.

“Rick has been such a quality coach for a long time and it’s a bigger school in a bigger league (the Valley Oak League), so it’s an opportunity for us to play against a really good program and test ourselves,” Watson said.

The Bears are coming off a decisive 77-45 victory against Hughson last week, while the Wildcats are looking to get back into the win column following a loss to the Bret Harte Bullfrogs last Thursday.

“That was kind of a shocker for us, so we want it, we want this one,” said Wildcat guard Danny Matranga. “This is a big one for us to come back and make a statement that we’re still the best team in town.”

The rivalry between the two schools has been something that Matranga grew up watching and he’ll get the opportunity to carry on the tradition.

“You watch this rivalry and hope you can take part in it and now is the time,” he said.

Tip-off is at approximately 7:15 p.m.