League championships are not easily won. The best example of that was the hard-fought battle between Sonoma County League-leading Petaluma and second place Sonoma Valley Thursday night with the regular season title on the line.
What resulted is what sports fans anticipate in a game between evenly matched and well-drilled varsity girls teams in the SCL finale. As the big partisan crowd increased in size and volume, the contest was always in reach of both teams in terms of a few points, and it was inevitable that after a final frenzy it would go into overtime.
Petaluma wound up as the last team standing, as the T-Girls grimly held on for a 60-58 win over a good Sonoma Valley team that still had every chance to win in the final seconds of play. Neither team could pull away. but it looked grim for the T-Girls at one point when Dragon center Mackenzie Albrecht got inside for a short banker to give Sonoma a four-point lead mid way through the fourth period.
T-Girl center Allison Scranton, who played her best game of the season in a double-digit win (66-42) over Sonoma Vally only three weeks ago, again played a pivotal role with a pair of pressure-packed free throws to propel Petaluma to the final victory margin.
It also took field goals by Katy Bisges, Lisa Guptil, and seniors Kierra Lizama and Clair Prieto to match the offense of the Lady Dragons in the overtime period, allowing for the last-second heroics by Scranton. Lizama made a critical set shot to maintain the T-Girl margin in the final stanza.
Sonoma outscored the T-Girls, 23-20, in the second half, led by the outside accuracy of sharp-shooting guard Ali Romano, who simply would not go away. Romano stroked six shots from behind the arc, and finished with a game-high 24 points. Her last shot came from the corner after the T-Girls surged ahead by four points with less than a minute remaining, and it hardly tickled the twine.
Aside from the shooting of Romano, the key player in the contest was junior guard Lisa Guptil of Petaluma. Guptil, one of the best perimeter defenders for the T-Girls, hounded Romano on every early possession, but picked up three personal fouls before the game had any personality.
"Her three fouls came so fast in the game that it was difficult for our kids to react," said Petaluma coach Doug Johnson. "it really made a different game of it in the first half."
Petaluma led, 30-27, in the free-scoring game, with both teams connecting at a furious pace. Guptil was ushered to the bench, but eventually returned in the late going, and played a pivotal role on both offense and defense.
The T-Girls also managed to hang in there despite three fouls each by Scranton, Guptil and Joelle Krist, but it definitely took some of the defensive sharpness from their game.
Sophie Bihn calmly came off the bench in the first half to keep the T-Girls in the game with four shots from distance. Her 12-point contribution saved the day for Petaluma with several of its regular weapons on the bench for extended periods.
In the second half, Guptil got her chance, and delivered the goods. With Sonoma packing it in to make ball penetration tough on the inside, Guptil took advantage with eight points along the baseline to match the hot Dragon offense. One final shot by the junior lefty evened the contest, and guaranteed four minutes of overtime.