Surging Petaluma continued its late season charge with a 52-44 first-round win over Sonoma Valley to open the North Coast Section girl's Division III basketball playoffs.
The victory on Tuesday night was the seventh in succession for the T-Girls, who pleased a home gathering and advanced to a second round showdown against third-seeded and more dangerous Campolindo (16-10) in Moraga on Friday. Campolindo was awarded a first round bye.
Fresh from a Sonoma County League Tournament title victory last week, the T-Girls have peaked at playoff time, and now stand a chance of advancing to the NorCal Tournament. Petaluma would have to notch another victory, which didn't appear to be possible three weeks ago. Now standing at 19-10 for the season, the T-Girls hold season victories over playoff bound teams from Hercules, Analy and St. Francis from Sacramento.
Leading the way against Sonoma was junior center Allison Scranton, who dominated play on the inside with 14 points and a season high 26 rebounds. Scranton has been the first offensive option for the T-Girls all season, and she had to battle some triple-teaming tactics by the Dragons in raising her rebounding total to 410, which is tops in the NCS according to Max Preps.
The collapsing Sonoma defense allowed some open looks along the baseline, and forward Joelle Krist took full advantage by knocking in a game-high 24 points to pace the T-Girls' attack. Krist hammered in shots in every period to help Petaluma hold off a late charge by the Dragons, which narrowed the gap to four points late in the final stanza.
"I'm happy to win this game, but I think our best effort of the season came last Friday against Analy," said Scranton. "We were all talking on defense and ran our offense very well."
Scranton was completely blanketed on the inside by Sonoma, as the Dragons sagged in front of her and posted a player in back with occasional third-player help. Sonoma's 6-foot, 2-inch junior Ciarra Smith sat out the game with an injury.
"I actually think I play better against a taller center when our guards are shooting well," explained Scranton, who was credited with double-double. "It does get kind of irritating with all that shoving underneath on the low block. I do get a little angry sometimes."
The winning T-Girls led from start to finish, and didn't allow a field goal until mid way through the second quarter when Alexa Hall connected from distance. Petaluma led 20-13 at intermission.
The T-Girls gradually pulled ahead by as many as 13 points only to have Sonoma come roaring back with three consecutive shots from outside the arc by Sierra Lilly.
Closing baskets by Krist, Scranton and Cassie Baddeley helped Petaluma pull away for good in the final minutes.
The difference maker in the past two victories by Petaluma has been the return of point guard Lisa Guptil. After sitting out the first Sonoma game, Guptil came back to play like a senior point guard who doesn't want her season to end. Her ability to see the entire floor and add six crucial points helped collapse Sonoma's sttempt to apply back-court pressure.
Petaluma coach Doug Johnson had mixed feelings about playing league foe Sonoma for the fourth time this season. "It helps us in preparation because we have seen them so many times," he said. "Of course, that goes both ways. I offered to exchange films with Sil (Coccia) and we both laughed. The game did make for a better gate I suppose.