When old times trump final score
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.
As road trips go, this had to feel like 200 miles of bad road for Bill Mache. Mache, coach of the Corning High School basketball team, traveled from Corning, 20 miles north of Chico, to Santa Rosa to play Cardinal Newman on Saturday night in a CIF second round state game in Division 4. His team scored only six points in the first quarter. His team trailed by 20 just entering the second quarter. Mache started substituting liberally with his second and third teams with six minutes left in the game. The outcome was that assured.
Corning never got closer than 15 after trailing, 27-7, losing 54-37, and, wait, what do I see after the game? Mache is smiling like someone just gave him the keys to a new Ferrari. His season is over. He should have a scowly face. He should be giving the quick, obligatory half-hearted handshake to the opposing coach. He should be grabbing for his car keys, eager to hit the freeway and put Newman and this thumping far behind him. Yet. ...
Corine Maday of Corning was standing near mid-court. Maday was taking a picture of Mache, Newman head coach Tom Bonfigli and Bonfigli's brother Jerry, Newman's athletic director. They had this three-guy group hug for the camera, like they had known each other all their lives.
Well, hold on there, actually they have. Jerry Bonfigli and Mache played on the same Cardinal Newman basketball team as seniors in 1969, the one that went 23-2. Mache was the power forward. Jerry Bonfigli was the point guard. Tom Bonfigli was a sophomore on Newman's junior varsity team.
“Next year I have my three best players returning,” Mache said, “and I'm coming back down here to beat my friends.”
Yes, of course, back in 1969, Mache would have loved to stay around Santa Rosa. He did for a well, playing for SRJC with — talk about everybody knowing everybody around here — current Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie. Mache then left. “When I took the job in Corning, I couldn't get a job anywhere else.” So he went to Corning, never looked back, except maybe when Corning plays Newman.
“This is special to me although I know it means nothing to the players,” Mache said. “These guys (Bonfiglis) are like my brothers.”
Mache and the Bonfiglis stood there a lot longer than the usual quick snap for a group pose.
“When you know someone for 45 years,” Tom Bonfigli said, “you want to take your time.”
The men didn't spend a lot of time dissecting the game. There was no need. Newman rarely allowed Corning's guards to let Corning's best player, 6-foot-6 Michael Shoemaker, into the game. Rarely was the ball passed unfettered and uncontested. Averaging 17.6 points, Shoemaker had only nine Saturday night. Thus started the trickle-down of frustration. Once Shoemaker struggled, his team followed suit. Corning had 11 turnovers and shot only 38.6 percent from the floor (17-for-44). Corning's guards had trouble controlling the ball and it seemed like Corning was always going uphill against Newman's press ... and the thought hit me.
“Did losing to Salesian the way you did last week make it easier to play these guys?”
Salesian crushed Newman, 65-34, in the NCS Division 4 final.
“Yes,” said Tom Bonfigli. ”We were a lot quicker than Corning the same way Salesian was a lot quicker than us. We knew we could apply pressure against Corning's guards.”
Salesian could very well become the state's Open Division champion and if there is such a thing as a defeat providing for the greater good, Salesian was more than happy to accommodate. Everyone else will appear slower in the comparison. Bonfigli is hoping that continues next Tuesday when Newman hosts Soquel in the NorCals.
“Soquel beat Bellarmine, Palo Alto and Piedmont, all Division 1 schools who won their first-round CIF games,” Tom Bonfigli said. “They are lightning quick and shoot threes.”
It was five minutes after the game Saturday night and Tom Bonfigli already was thinking about next Tuesday. Not that he was dismissing Corning that casually and quickly, or that beating Corning wasn't an accomplishment. After all, Corning did finish the season with a 28-3 mark, hardly a chump's record.
But Tom Bonfigli has never been one to dwell on the past, whether that past has a victory or a defeat attached to it. Except. ...
“When you know someone for 45 years,” Tom Bonfigli said. “Then it's different.”
Then it's about relationships and relationships, if you were to press him on it, matter more to Tom Bonfigli than his team's record. You could tell that Saturday night when Corine Maday was taking the picture of the three men. Looking at their faces you wouldn't have known which man had lost and which man had won. And for the Bonfiglis and Bill Mache, that's what a good friendship means to them. The final score separates the teams but not the coaches.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or email@example.com.