Lance Buoncristiani back on the court
For Lance Buoncristiani, the third time has indeed turned into a charm.
He grew up in Carson City with dreams of playing major college basketball and went on to become a four-year varsity starter at Galena High School between 1996 and '99. The 5-foot-9 point guard finished as Galena's all-time leading scorer, received all-state recognition in his last three seasons and signed to play at the University of Idaho in 1999.
After playing as a freshman at Idaho - he got in 30 minutes against such opponents as Mississippi State, Oregon State and Gonzaga - Buoncristiani decided to seek out greener pastures and pursued his dream of playing Division I ball to Florida, where he played one season at Chipola Junior College. He played well enough at Chipola to attract attention from some mid-level major programs, but then came to a realization before he made any recruiting trips. Buoncristiani decided he'd had enough and hung up his sneakers.
A lot has changed in the past two-and-a-half years.
Buoncristiani has returned to the court and is now playing as a junior guard for Dominican College of California, a team that plays its opener at the NAIA Division II National Tournament in Branson, Mo., tonight at 7:45 p.m. against Oregon Tech.
It's not Duke or Stanford. It's not even Lawlor Events Center, where Buoncristiani played for a Galena team that lost to Bishop Gorman 53-39 in the 1997 Nevada 4A State Tournament championship game and where he played for Idaho in a game against Nevada. But it's still basketball and the 23-year-old Buoncristiani is simply happy to be playing.
"It's not the best, but for what I'm looking for, it is," Buoncristiani said on Tuesday. "I'm looking at it from a different perspective now. It's not about the bright lights, it's about what you get out of it. And having this for my last basketball experience, I couldn't ask for anything better."
The Penguins from San Rafael have played well all season. They're bringing a 29-6 overall record and 18-game win streak to the NAIA tournament. They swept through the California Pacific Conference with a 17-1 record and won the conference tournament championship Saturday night with a 79-60 victory against Cal State Hayward.
Buoncristiani, who broke into the starting lineup near midseason, had nine points and a dozen assists in Dominican's 76-49 opening round win over Menlo College and he contributed 14 points the next night in a 94-81 win over Cal State Monterey.
"I'm just amazed to be playing with a great group of guys who are all quality people and quality basketball players," Buoncristiani said.
The Bill Treseler-coached Penguins have a team with international flavor. Two players are from Melbourne, Australia, including CalPac Player of the Year David Moore (a 6-5 forward), one from Fortalezza, Brazil and another from Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Former McQueen High standout J.J. Myatt is also on the team.
Dominican will face a difficult test tonight against Oregon Tech, a team that is 27-7 and averaging 83 points per game. Looking ahead to the second round, the Dominican-Oregon Tech winner will likely play Jamestown (N.D.), 27-2 and the tournament's No. 1 seed.
"We didn't get a good draw, but we're looking at it as a blessing because if we can get past the first couple of rounds, we're going to be in great shape," Buoncristiani said.
"It's definitely rewarding to be here. No matter what the level is, it's still a national tournament, and we're hoping we can pull out as many as we can back here."
Jared Petersen of Gardnerville played his final college game for California Maritime Academy at the CalPac Tournament. The 6-4 senior forward played as a starter in each of his four seasons at CMA.
Petersen, a 2000 Douglas High graduate (he was the class Salutatorian), led the conference in defensive rebounds and ranked second in blocked shots. He was a team captain the last two seasons for the Keelhaulers.
He was selected to the all-conference freshman team in 2001 and was honored as an NAIA Basketball All-American Scholar Athlete in 2003. He was also a finalist for the NAIA 2003 Dr. LeRoy Walker Sportsmanship Award.
Petersen, who maintains a 3.97 grade point average, is now preparing for a new career after passing the U.S. Coast Guard Third Assistant Engineers licensing exam and having been certified by the California Board of Professional Engineers as a Engineer-in-training. He is a Divisional Commander for the Corps of Cadets, vice president of his senior class and vice president for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal