Stronger, new-look league

A lot of athletic leagues wind up with co-champions. But how many can claim two outright champions?

That's the deal in North Bay League girls basketball this year. Casa Grande, last year's Sonoma County League champ, has come to the NBL via realignment (along with Windsor), joining NBL title defender Maria Carrillo and six other hungry schools.

With teams like Montgomery and Santa Rosa returning potent rosters, and with last year's lower finishers expecting marked improvement, this could be the most competitive NBL season in a long time.

"The potential this year for anyone beating anyone else on any given night is a reality now more than ever," Montgomery coach Steve Bell said.

Of course, if NBL teams take turns beating on one another as expected, their records may all suffer a bit. That could be an issue when it comes time for playoff berths and seeding, unless the North Coast Section recognizes the overall strength of this league.

"That's probably the downside of it," Santa Rosa coach Steve Chisholm said. "But the upside is it's gonna be much stronger, more competitive and balanced, which will bode well for teams going into NCS. There will not be an easy night or a time when you can afford to take a night off. There will be a lot of games going down to the wire in the last minutes, close games, and that's what you want for the playoffs."

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