Casa Grande High School's Lady Gauchos led from tip to buzzer in an impressive beginning to their North Coast Section playoff excursion Tuesday night. Playing their customary tenacious defense while finding the hoop from far and near, the Lady Gauchos ran away from Washington's (Fremont) sometimes bewildered Lady Huskies, 67-44, in the opening round of the Division II playoffs.

For their efforts the Lady Gauchos are rewarded with a trip to Concord Friday night 7 p.m. tipoff) where they will play Diablo Valley Athletic League champion Clayton Valley (20-6), the division's No. 2 seed.

"They are a good basketball team," noted Casa Grande coach Dan Sack. "They can flat out score. They have one excellent scorer (5-foot, 9-inch senior Ashley Allen, who averages better than 18 points per game) and several other scorers around her."

Highly reputed offensive teams don't faze the in-your-face Lady Gauchos. Washington came into the Coach Ed Iacopi Gymnasium averaging 56 points a game, and by the end of the first half had already committed 13 turnovers and trailed the streaking Lady Gauchos, 40-21.

Offensively, Casa's Brooke Santander scored the game's first point on a free throw to give Casa Grande a lead it held the rest of the way and stayed in the zone throughout the contest. She took the ball to the hoop from both sides in all sorts of creative ways and was spot on with her unique chest-high jump shot. Washington simply could not contain her as she beat up on the Lady Huskies for 26 points.

She had all kinds of help. Team sparkplug Lyndsey Murnin hobbled off the court with an injured ankle late in the first quarter, but a few minutes later was back at full speed, running the Casa Grande offense and driving the lane for nine points. Lexie Schloetter had the range from 3-point land, popping in a trio of long-range connections and finishing with 14 points. Dayna Dolcini, who, as usual, made a major contribution to the Casa Grande defense, scored six points at a time when the game was still a contest.

Senior Allie Fausone had one of her better offensive efforts of the season with eight crucial points and strong play on the backboards. "Allie is shooting with confidence," Sack noted.

While he was pleased with his team's offense, Sack said the real key to victory was the Casa Grande defense.

"They run their offense through their center (5-foot, 10-inch Val Lousi) and we were able to deny her the ball," the coach explained.

With the path to the middle clogged, Washington resorted to firing from the outside, and guard Sierra Dixon gave Casa some tough moments. She hit three 3-point shots and finished with 13 points. Senior Blaine Booker led a mini Washington surge in the third quarter and finished with 14 points in the game.

All the suspense went out of the game early. Santander, Fausone, Murnin and Dolcini all scored in the first quarter to give the Lady Gauchos a 15-8 lead. Schloetter bottomed a pair of 3s as Casa continued its run in the second period, building its 19-point halftime lead, and by the end, every Lady Gaucho had been given an opportunity to participate in a NCS playoff game. Highlight for the reserves was a basket by sophomore Lucia Mora, who accounted for the game's final points.