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Petaluma High School's T-Girls are a team of contradictions.

The T-Girls are young, but experienced. They are small, but have one of the best big players in the Sonoma County League. They are athletic, but, according to coach Doug Johnson, need to become more athletic as a team.

Starting three freshmen and sometimes playing as many as four at a time, Petaluma went through a learning year last season, compiling a 9-15 record.

Those freshmen are back with lessons learned this season, but the T-Girls remain a young team, with six 10th graders on their 12-player roster.

Petaluma has only one player listed at more than 5 foot, 9 inches, but 6-foot, 1-inch Allison Scranton is a good one. She combines excellent athletic and jumping ability with her size. "Allison has improved a great deal," Johnson says. "She can be a very good player."

Johnson says as a team, the T-Girls are trying to learn the offense. "They are gifted athletically, but they have to learn to play as a team athletically. They have to learn to have fun and stay within of the confines of our offense."

Regardless of how his young team fares this year, Johnson predicts it will be a good season because of the nature of the players.

"They are good kids," he explains. "The enthusiasm level is very high. They are fun to coach. We have a lot of young kids, but we have some very nice senior leadership."

When Johnson talks about a leader, he talks about 5-foot, 7-inch forward Claire Pareto.

"The kids will follow her wherever she asks them to go," he says. "She gives the team great direction.'

Pareto will serve as one of the T-Girls' captains, along with fellow senior, guard Kierra Lizama, another who provides leadership along with physical skills. "She has made tremendous strides," the coach says.

Petaluma will have a designated third captain for each game, depending on who the coach feels is worthy from play and practice through the week.

Much of the Petaluma scoring load will be shouldered by returning sophomore Joelle Krist. She has the ability to score from outside or drive to the basket. Although just 5-feet, 7-inches, her strength allows her to be an important rebounder as well.

Krist suffered an ankle injury in Petaluma's first tournament and has been out for about a week. The injury is not considered too serious, and the T-Girls are expecting her to return soon.

Another sophomore, Katy Bisges, is the perpeptual-motion engine that makes the T-Girls run. An excellent ball handler and defender, she brings an intensity to the game that has her diving for every loose basketball.

A trio of other sophomores — guards Jenna Teagarden and Cassie Baddeley and forward Maddie Mehciz are being counted on for major contributions.

Junior Lisa Guptill has been joining Bisges in the T-Girl backcourt, providing steady play and contributing to the offense. "She has been doing a nice job for us," says Johnson.

The T-Girls are also looking to juniors Ellie O'Neill and Sophie Bihn to contribute, while senior forward Megan Walls adds depth.

"We've got some good pieces," says Johnson. "They have won some close games. Of our first five games, three were decided by five points or less and we got the job done. If we're close we've got a chance to win.

"My main concern is that we haven't been able to run our special plays yet."

Petaluma, like many teams in the SCL, no longer has a freshman team, but the T-Girls have good numbers this year, carrying 12 players on the varsity and 14 on the JVs.

"If are numbers stay up, we might look at bringing back a frosh-soph team," Johnson says.

This year, Petaluma's sophomores are doing just fine on the varsity.