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Sophomore center Allison Scranton turned in a clutch performance when her team needed it the most to help power the Petaluma T-Girls to a convincing 56-42 win over Sonoma Valley Friday night in a battle for first place in the Sonoma County League.

Scranton nearly matched her career high as she drove a steady path to the basket and finished with 18 points and 11 controlling rebounds against the favored Lady Dragons, who were playing on their familiar home floor. At one point, the young pivot player rolled in 10 consecutive points when the surprising Petaluma team went on an 18-2 run. After the first 14 minutes of play, the T-Girls had forged a 34-16 advantage.

Earlier in the season, Scranton tallied 19 points in a T-Girl win over Albany, but the stakes were not nearly so high.

"She had her way inside tonight," admitted Sonoma coach Sil Coccia, "W had no answer."

The contest between the long-time rivals did not decide the SCL title with the entire second round still to be played, but it did make a statement for the T-Girls, who improved to an impressive 16-3 record for the season. Petaluma now has a tenuous one-game advantage in league play over the dangerous Dragons. The two teams will end regular-season play with a rematch in Petaluma on Feb. 7. Petaluma was forced to overcome several disadvantages to pull out the win over the Lady Dragons. The T-Girls lost senior point guard Kierra Lizama to four fouls early in the game, and backup Jenna Teagarden was sent home with an illness before the opening tap. To make things worse, Petaluma was whistled for twice as many fouls as Sonoma (19-8), forcing coach Doug Johnson to mix and match in the back court as the game progressed.

Sonoma was in the double bonus from the foul line early in the second period.

Defensively, Petaluma clamped down on high-coring Ali Romano (10,0 ppg) by over playing her on the wings with Lisa Guptil and Katy Bisges looking specifically for the senior point maker. At one point, Romano was 0-8 from the floor, with T-Girls flying in her direction on each shot.

Top substitute Cassie Baddeley quickly came off the bench with a great deal of energy, scoring five points from the floor in the second stanza, and taking over the ball handling chores at the top of the key when everybody in a purple uniform seemed to find Scranton underneath.

Guptil was particularly effective on both ends, and especially annoying to the Dragon perimeter passers. By moving her body into defensive position, she was able to disrupt any offensive continuity by the Dragons. The only Sonoma player who came open was wing shooter Kendal Ash, who drained 18 points, mostly from distance on the weak side. Second-leading scorer McKenzie Albrecht added 10 points, but two of her baskets came in the final quarter when the tiring Dragons were limited to six points.

While Scranton was drawing much of the attention by the Dragons, teammate forward Joelle Krist quietly kept rallies alive with 14 points along the baseline, and she also hauled down eight rebounds in addition to making three key assists to her suddenly active scoring center.

Veteran coach Johnson did not try to sell the contest between the two SCL leaders during the week as anything more than another tough game. "We practiced very well this week, and all I can ask of these kids is that they play hard and that they did," he said. "It's still too early to get that excited. I did think we could win the game before it began tonight. A lot depended on finding Romano on the outside with our match-up zone."

Losing Lizama for most of the game, and without Teagarden, the situation demanded more from the T-Girl perimeter players. and the ever-present Bisges was continually there with solid defense and some well-directed passes to go along with her 11 points. "When Jenna left, it hurt our back court even more," said Johnson. "Our guards stepped up."

The host Lady Dragons did manage to close the gap to 10 points midway through the third period on 3-point shots by Ash and Romano. It was the only field goal by Romano, but a fast-paced hoop underneath by Scranton after another Krist rebound was a quick answer, and Sonoma got no closer.

After a demanding challenge game against top NBL contender Montgomery on Monday afternoon, the T-Girls get back into league action against a very competitive Analy squad in Sebastopol on Tuesday.

The Sonoma junior varsity took over first place in the SCL with a decisive 52-23 victory over the short-handed T-Girls. Three Petaluma regular players were held out of the game because of sickness.