St. Vincent overcame a very cold shooting effort by converting enough free throws along the way to hold off a determined effort by the visiting Tomales girls and go on to post a 32-24 win in North Central League II play Friday night.
It was a defensive contest from the opening tap, with neither team able to cobble together a run of baskets to earn any separation. The difference was the ability of the Lady Mustangs to slash to the basket, and earn enough foul calls to score 15 points from the charity stripe.
Both teams managed only 17 points from the floor, but the ability of St. Vincent to record enough free throws to keep the lead for the entire game eventually spelled victory for the Mustangs of coach Jim Fagundes.
Most of the heavy lifting came from center Urysla Baumgarten, who got deep position in the post and drove to the hoop with regularity. Baumgarten, the most consistent scorer for St. Vincent in the early season, finished with a game-high nine points, and her driving basket with less than two minutes on the clock sealed the deal for the Lady Mustangs.
The best effort on the part of St. Vincent offense was the ability to puncture the Lady Brave defense with some well-directed entry passes by guards Grace Jennings, Maddie Perry and Rebecca Dodelle. Most of the passes were on the money, allowing Baumgarten to move swiftly to her left a step ahead of the Brave defenders. Several times Baumgarten had to kick the ball back out to re-post and get better position.
The lack of ability to score from the floor has become a gigantic puzzle for Fugundes, whose team looked so good at the beginning of the season against a solid group of opponents, including Covenant of the Sacred Heart and Urban of San Francisco. St. Vincent made it to the finals of the Urban tourney at Kezar Pavilion, but have not been able to hit any offensive stride since the holiday break. Two narrow league losses earlier have also created an uphill task in NCL II play.
The senior-loaded Lady Braves were able to move the ball up the floor despite the full court pressure defense of St. Vincent. Veteran guards Kayla Furlong, Sara Souza and Christa Nygard all handled the ball well enough to get the ball into the front court, but that is where Tomales offense stalled. On repeated tries underneath, the shots were sent away by Mustang defenders.
Tomales came into the game with a record of 9-6 and the Lady Braves could again be a tough foe in the Division VI North Coast Section playoffs. Coach Chris Kenyon admitted that this might be their final strong run in some time because eight of his nine players on the roster are seniors.
"There are some kids on the junior varsity that could help us down the line. In fact, our team had a breakout game tonight. It was 42-20 in the preliminary game," he noted.
Souza, averaging 7.6 points per game, finally broke loose for a pair of 3-point shots to close the gap to four points in the final period before the critical counter hoop by Baumgarten. Souza, however, left the game with two minutes remaining when she was disqualified on fouls.