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Cardinal Newman boys basketball team goes for state title

  • The Cardinal Newman bench celebrate during the Northern California division 4 boys basketball championship held at American Canyon High School, Saturday, March 16, 2013. Cardinal Newman defeated Archbishop Riordan 73-66.

The Cardinal Newman High School basketball program is steeped in success, with the banners wallpapering John Fitzgerald Gym to prove it.

And yet the Catholic school north of Santa Rosa has never won a state boys basketball championship.

If the Cardinals can beat Pacific Hills of West Hollywood on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, they will join the Cloverdale teams of 1983 and 1984 as the North Coast's only boys' winners.

Cardinal Newman vs. Archbishop Riordan

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"I really like this group of guys," said Craig McMillan, the star of those Cloverdale championship teams and now coach of the men's team at Santa Rosa Junior College.

"They're well-coached, disciplined. They play basketball the right way, unselfish," he said. "They have the characteristics of a team that can make this kind of run."

The Cardinals have come close before, making it to the Division 4 title game three times. They lost each time, joining Fresno High and University High of San Francisco as the only boys' programs with 0-3 records in the state championship round.

Lose this Saturday and Cardinal Newman will be the Buffalo Bills of North Bay basketball, a very good program that seems destined for second place.

Of course, most schools would love to make it this far. Since the California Interscholastic Federation initiated the state title format in 1983, only 11 teams from Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties -- boys and girls -- have played for the championship. And only four have won: the Cloverdale boys in 1983 and 1984, the Ursuline girls in 1992 and the Rincon Valley Christian girls in 1997.

That's four state champs in 30 years, and none in the past 15.

That long?" Lesley DuBois gasped. "I feel so old!"


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