Cardinal Newman's long-tenacled girls basketball team defended and rebounded its way to a 40-31 North Bay League over Casa Grande Thursday night in Casa's Coach Ed Iacopi Gymnasium.
Casa Grande's pressuring in-your-face defense kept the Gauchos in the game until a poor-shooting Gaucho night turned into a bad-shooting night in the final quarter.
A 3-point connection by Londyn Inskeep that barely beat the buzzer put Cardinal Newman up, 23-17, at the half. Casa Grande stayed close behind 3-point connections from Megan Burke and Angela Llaverias through the third period, at one point closing the gap to 31-29.
The Gauchos reached the final quarter down just 33-29, but simply couldn't buy a bucket legitimately or even on the black market through a frustrating final quarter. Casa Grande had only on basket, an inside shot by Kayla Ryan, in the entire final quarter.
Part of the Gauchos' scoring problems were caused by a practically impenetrable Cardinal Newman zone defense. The Cardinals are built around 6-foot, 4-inch Lauren Walker, 6-foot, 2-inch Halley Vice Neat and 6-foot Tiffany Salinas. Walker and Vice Neat are freshman. Salinas is a sophomore. When they get heir arms spread on defense, passing lanes disappear. The Cardinal tall girls also were board dominant against the Gauchos, with many of the Newman points coming on second and third efforts in the paint.
Casa Grande's hustling Gaucho defenders managed to stay in the game with a buzzing defense that stung the Cardinals with 15 steals. Cardinal Newman had 24 overall turnovers to just 11 for the Gauchos.
Casa Grande's Angela Llaverias at 5-feet, 8-inches, did an excellent job defending the much taller Cardinals.
"Angela did an amazing job," noted Casa Grande coach Dan Sack, but she can't cover three at once.
"Our girls played hard. Obviously Cardinal Newman had a size advantage. When we face a bigger team we have to play our best game," the coach said. "We had a couple of breakdowns and it cost us. We have to rotate quicker and communicate better."
Kylie Kiech, a 5-foot, 8-inch junior, led Cardinal Newman with 12 points, with Salinas scoring 11 and Vice-Neat eight. Llaverias led Casa Grande with nine.