The outcome of Thursday night’s Casa Grande girls basketball game against Cardinal Newman was all but preordained. The game ran true to form, with the hyper-talented Cardinals rolling over the hustling but over-matched Casa Lady Gauchos, 56-27.
Cardinal Newman came into the game needing a win to complete an undefeated 14-0 North Bay League championship run. Overall, the Cardinals were 22-3. Casa Grande entered 5-8 in league and 13-12 overall. The records were reflected on the court.
The highlight of the night for the Lady Gauchos came before tip-off when they held their Senior (as in singular) Night, paying tribute to Cassidy McKinney.
Much more on Cassidy in today’s JJ Says column.
“Every now and then you get to work with someone really special. That’s Cassidy,” said Casa Grande coach Dan Sack. “You can’t replace what she has brought to our program over the last four years.”
Once the game started, Cardinal Newman was, as expected, pretty much unstoppable when its first unit was on the court. Once the Cardinals were able to get the ball in to 6-5 center Lauren Walker, either by pass or missed shot, she was sure to rebound, the scoreboard was almost certain to blink. The senior scored six points in the opening quarter as Newman built a 14-7 lead, and she finished with 14 points.
When Walker wasn’t scoring from inside the paint, Anya Choice was popping in a trey or Hailey Vice-Neat was hitting a medium-range jumper. Choice finished with 13 points and Vice-Neat seven. None played much more than the equivalent of a half.
“There is nothing you can do to prepare for them (the Cardinals) in practice. You cannot simulate what they do,” Sack summed up the dilemma of playing against Newman.
For Casa, McKinney was all over the court, handling the ball, defending and feeding teammates, but neither she nor the other Lady Gauchos could get good looks from inside or out against the ball-hounding Cardinals.
Casa’s 5-10 Mia Cain did her best battling the towering Walker in the paint and scrapped her way to 14 points.
Although Casa will not qualify for the North Bay League Tournament that features the league’s top four teams, Sack emphasized that the Lady Gaucho season is not over.
“We expect to get a North Coast Section playoff spot, and we’ll see what happens,” he explained.