Casa Grande bolted to an overwhelming lead in the opening period, and went on to run past the host Petaluma T-Girls, 39-25, in front of a big bipartisan gathering on Monday night in the Petaluma gym.
Paced by the outside shooting of Lexie Schloetter and veteran Lyndsey Murnin, the Lady Gauchos rimmed 18 unanswered points after a game opening jumper by Lisa Guptil of Petaluma, and led by a whopping 20-4 margin after the first eight minutes.
Schloetter got lost on the perimeter and opened with a trio of shots from outside the arc, and finished with 11 points in the stanza.
Murnin controlled the Casa offense with her passing and dribble penetration. and the Gauchos increased their advantage to a comfortable 31-9 margin at halftime. The senior point guard took complete command of the tempo of the game and rattled in 14 points by half.
"I might have surprised the girls before the game by forgetting all the talk about playing hard against Petaluma, and I told them to just go out there and have fun," said Casa coach Dan Sack. "I was happy with the way they came out firing, and our defense was very good on the other end."
The strategy worked, as the relaxed Gauchos buried five 3-pointers in the first period to take the T-Girl crowd out of the game.
Meanwhile, the pressure applied by the Casa Grande defense forced Petaluma to begin its offense well out of a comfort zone near mid-court. The T-Girls had to work hard to make connections on every pass, and eventually turned to dribble drives toward the basket. Their slashing efforts did eventually help them crawl back to a more respectable score at the end of the game.
Leading Petaluma point producer Katy Bisges (13.9) had a forgettable offensive game with only one basket and a chilly two for six from the free throw line, but it did not interfere with her intensity on the floor. The hustling sophomore repeatedly dove on the hardwood to force three turnovers and grab four loose balls.
Sophie Bihn came off the T-Girl bench to lead the team in scoring against the Lady Gauchos with seven points, including a spectacular 3-pointer well behind the line in the final period. Bihn played a solid floor game, and earned extra minutes as the physical game went on.
Petaluma outscored Casa, 16-8, in the second half, but the game was out of their reach.
Murnin, a converted two-year shooting guard, helped steady the Lady Gaucho offense after intermission, and wound up with a game leading 18 points. Defensive pressure did not rattle her.
Schloetter added all of her 11 points in the opening quarter. "Lexie is a very good shooter, and she is going to be even more productive when she gets the ball off before that dribble," noted Sack.
Brooke Santander chipped in with six points, also in the early going. Dayna Dolcini grabbed 10 rebounds for the Gauchos as they improved to 4-1 for the season.
Six players on the Petaluma roster are sophomores, and they are getting a trial by fire in each contest. Five of the second-year T-Girls got major minutes against rival Casa, while injured teammate Joelle Krist recovers from an ankle injury suffered in last week's Anne Scott Tournament.