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Casa Grande High School's Gauchos used a stingy defense for a successful 15-13 season last year. This year, they are counting on a potent offense for an even better season.

"We are going to be exciting," says Casa Grande coach James Forni. "We have the ability to score, but we have to work on our defense."

The Gauchos are young, with only three seniors on the team. Those three, Brycen Poarch, Aaron Dal Poggetto and Jake Ielmorini, are being counted on for not only leadership, but for more tangible contributions — scoring, rebounding and defense.

Poarch at 6-feet, plays bigger. A league-champion long and triple jumper, he can sky and also has excellent athletic instincts.

Dal Poggetto will be one of the team's leading scorers. He has a good touch from outside and can also take the ball to the hoop. He has been Casa's second-leading scorer in early going.

Ielmorini missed last season with an injury and got a late start this year because of football. However, he has already made important contributions as a tough rebounder and inside player.

A sophomore and a junior, each with some varsity experience, will be counted on to shoulder much of the inside load for Casa Grande.

Jon Christy, the tallest of the Gauchos at 6-feet, 6-inches, stuck with the varsity last season as a freshman, getting more playing time and making larger contributions as the season progressed. He will be counted on not only for his rebounding, but also to defense opposing team's big players.

Kyle Kaupe started last season on the junior varsity, but played his way onto the varsity. At 6-feet, 3-inches, he is a strong rebounder and a scoring threat around the basket.

While Casa Grande will move the ball inside whenever possible, much of the Gaucho firepower will come from shooting guard Cetrick Yeanay. The 5-foot, 8-inch junior opened the season with 32 points against San Marin and is capable of similar performances in any given game.

Yeanay was good enough to see considerable playing time for the varsity last season, but was used primarily as a point guard. This year, with the development of Tyler Nadolski, Forni has moved Yeanay to the shooting guard slot, where he can take advantage of more screens and designed plays.

When Nadolski comes out, Yeanay easily slides into the point position. An athletic junior, Nadolski came up to the varsity at the end of last season. He is not only an outstanding ball handler, but also a tenacious defender.

With Casa Grande, the starters are just the beginning. Forni substitutes early and liberally and counts on many players to contribute.

Drew Busse brings strong energy off the bench and has already made strong contributions, as have Miles Gardea, a strong 6-foot, 2-inch 210-pound forward; Jack Micco, who Forni says really understands the game and what the Gauchos are doing; wing Daniel Greisen and athletic Jordan Porter. All are juniors and all are being counted on to contribute.

"We are going to be a hard-working team," Forni says. "We are going to have to be. We can't be average. We have to be outstanding just to compete in our league."

"Our league" is the North Bay League, which Casa Grande and Windsor join this season, after being in the Sonoma County League last year.

"It is going to be challenging for us," Forni says.