Santa Rosa's Panthers blew the doors off a tight game with 17 unanswered points in the final eight minutes to get past the Petaluma boys, 55-43, on the Panther floor Tuesday night.
It was a night of disappointment for the undersized Trojans, who alternately led and trailed by only a three-point margin until the final stanza. Petaluma led 25-24 at intermission.
The winning Panthers rallied suddenly after their first possession in the final quarter when hot-shooting Austin McMahan hit the first of three shots from distance. By the time the cold-shooting Trojans could muster any offensive retaliation, it was too late. Guard Clay Swanson finally converted two free throws to break the string of Santa Rosa baskets. The contest was out of reach at that point with only three minutes and change remaining.
Junior center Dustin Rome of the Panthers put an exclamation point on the rally with a dunk to the delight of the student section in the north end of the gym.
Petaluma came into the contest with a 1-2 record under first-year coach John Behrs, and played very well on both ends for three periods. Guards Swanson and Noah Forrey were able to penetrate the Santa Rosa defense for enough offense to keep the game within reach.
The Trojans were smaller at each starting position, but made up for any lack of size by passing efficiently and finding the open man with regularity. On defense, they worked hard enough to shut down the Santa Rosa passing lanes.
Center Eric Hunsicker 6-feet, 4-inches) chipped in by controlling the glass at the beginning of the contest with seven rebounds.
With the game on the line at the beginning of the final quarter, the Trojans lost track of McMahan, who floated from inside out and the versatile front court player had a field day from outside the 3-point arc. He finished with 19 points to lead both teams as Santa Rosa improved to 1-1 for the young season.
Swanson, the leading point maker for the Trojans in the early season, ended the game with 17 points but, the only field goal of the last quarter was made by Forrey. The Petaluma guard duo knocked in 31 between them, but got very little scoring support.
Petaluma led the junior varsity game with some strong offense in the early stages of the second period, but lost composure and the contest in a close game that featured one intentional foul, a violent collision underneath the basket and a double foul when two opposing players began shoving down the stretch.