Road woes in the North Bay League continue to plague the Casa Grande girls as they stumbled to Maria Carillo, 44-39, Tuesday in Santa Rosa. The loss evened the record for Casa at 4-4 in its first season in the NBL, with each loss coming on the road.
The Lady Gauchos had every opportunity to pull out the tight contest against Carillo. and at one point chopped the margin to only 40-39 with possession of the ball. A slashing lay-in attempt by Lyndsey Murnin down the middle rolled off the rim and the Lady Pumas closed it out with four unanswered points.
Casa pecked away at a 27-21 halftime lead by Carillo, and came within one point twice in the fourth stanza, but could never get over the hump. The Lady Gauchos had much the better of the dual in the back court with coach Dan Sack substituting liberally and forcing seven turnovers down the stretch, but they could not convert the Puma mistakes into baskets.
Carillo took advantage of a big size differential in the painted area, and scored enough to hold off the Gaucho charge. Six-foot center Mikaela Francis got good position against the shorter Gaucho defenders, and banked in 16 points to lead all scorers. The Gauchos made things a little easier for her in the first half when she was left unguarded for a couple of uncontested lay-ups,
After a couple of free throws by Murnin got the Gauchos within one point for the second time, Carillo struggled again to get the ball past the mid court line, but a driving bank shot by substitute Shelby Holtzworth increased the margin to 42-39.
Casa quickly called time out with 30 seconds left, but a shot by Brooke Santanter fell short.
Two free throws by Francis with only seconds left in the game sealed the deal for the Lady Pumas, who won their sixth game in a row and improved to 6-2 in the NBL.
Casa Grande broke out of the gate with a flurry of 3-pointers, but their outside shooting turned out to be their entire offense. Shots from distance by Murnin and Santander help keep the game within reach and the Gauchos trailed only 11-10 after the first period.
Angela Llaverias canned three shots from behind the arc in the first half to keep Casa within reach, but six points by Francis and some drives down the middle by senior Aaliyah Sowards broke down the Casa defense.
Murnin gave the Lady Gauchos the best opportunity to score down the stretch when she consistently got a step on her Puma defender to draw enough fouls to convert at the line. She led Casa with 13 points including, seven for eight from the line in the second half.
Technical fouls by Puma coach Chris Walton and one of his players led to three foul shots by Lexie Schloetter to make things even tighter.
The game was marred by a combination of 22 turnovers by both teams. At one point, a wild Puma pass from the baseline went directly into the hands of a surprised Gaucho under the basket, but her quick attempt at a lay-in rolled off the rim.
The victory by the Pumas evened the season series between the two clubs at 1-1. Casa opened the NBL season with a 37-36 win at home. Carillo is 13-5 for the season.