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The Casa Grande girls basketball team may not be quite as good as last season's team that took the school and a community on an exciting ride through an undefeated Sonoma County League championship to the finals of the North Coast Section playoffs and on to the NorCal playoffs, but they are pretty darn good. They are also better than Petaluma's still-young T-Girls.

Casa showed as much Monday night when they rolled over Petaluma, 39-25.

As George Haire reports in his game story on this page, Monday's contest was decided in the first quarter when Casa Grande blistered the net with 3-point connections for a 20-4 lead. When Lady Gaucho shooters Lexi Schloetter, Lyndsey Murnin and Brooke Santander are hot, Casa Grande can rack up points like a pinball machine and there isn't much the opposition can do about it.

Murnin is the catalyst that makes the Lady Gauchos go. She was the best player on the court Monday night. Now a senior, she has added maturity and experience to her intensity. She scored 18 points against Petaluma. In an earlier game against Analy, she was content to set up her teammates, taking just four shots. Casa won, 44-24.

While the Lady Gauchos can score, they are going to be streaky offensively. It is just the nature of long-range shooting teams. They went cold in the second half against the T-Girls, and scored just four points in the third quarter, before coach Dan Sack went totally to his bench players in the final round.

Defense is what is going to carry Casa Grande to success this season. The Lady Gauchos overwhelmed the T-Girls with their pressure defense, filling the passing lanes and denying the inside to Petaluma's 6-foot, 1-inch Allison Scranton. Not only did Petaluma not get many good shots, they got very few decent looks at the basket.

The Lady Gauchos don't press in the sense of trapping so much as they pressure from baseline to baseline and no one takes an open shot against them.

On the Petaluma side, the T-Girls' inexperienced showed. The T-Girls have so many familiar faces that it is easy to forget that their best players are still only sophomores.

Petaluma played Monday night with arguably its best player, and inaugerably its best scoring threat, Joelle Krist, out with an injured ankle. This is no excuse, you have to dance with the partners available, but it is true the T-Girls are a much better offensive team with Krist on the court. She is another of Petaluma's sophomore brigade.

Perhaps the most dynamic player on the court Monday was Petaluma sophomore Katy Bisges. The 5-foot, 4-inch guard was all over the place, making steals, defending, taking the ball to the hoop and even rebounding. You didn't have to follow the ball, all you had to do was follow Bisges.

Monday night, Casa Grande was the better team, but Petaluma is going to be just fine as well. Once the T-Girls get Krist back, they will be a force in the Sonoma County League.

This year, the North Bay League, where Casa Grande plays, is a tougher league than then SCL, but don't count the Lady Gauchos out against the likes of Cardinal Newman and Montgomery. When the Lady Gauchos are hot, they're hot and when they're not they still play defense.

A couple of other observations from Monday night:

A superb junior varsity game preceded the varsity match. A very well played, and evenly contested game was finally won by Petaluma, 43-41.

I have never seen so many jump balls in a single game. I think a foul can happen just as easily while players scrap on the floor as when they drive to the basket.

There was a nice crowd to the game. It was nice to see the Petaluma cheerleaders on hand. But where were the students? It seemed to me that there were more adults than kids in the stands. It would have been nice to see more good-natured and tasteful rivalry from the rooting sections.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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