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Petaluma tops Terra Linda

The Petaluma High Trojan boys basketball team bounced its season off to an impressive beginning last Saturday night in its home gym, romping over Terra Linda’s like-named Trojans, 69-40.

What made the game impressive wasn’t that Petaluma won the contest — its brand of Trojans is much superior to Terra Linda’s brand in all aspects. What made it noteworthy was Petaluma’s precision on both ends of the floor and how much improvement the home team showed over its first court appearance in a mid-week Foundation Game against St. Vincent.

Petaluma moved the ball well, found gaps in the Terra Linda zone defense to take the ball to the hoop, demonstrated a delicate touch from outside, rebounded from all sources and, perhaps most impressively, played tenacious, hands-in-your-face, bodies-in-your-passing lanes defense.

Not everything was perfect for Petaluma.

The home team, playing with intensity and purpose most of the games, did have some momentary lapses on defense when Terra Linda players managed to drive with impunity for easy hoops.

And, the Petaluma free throw woes continued. The home Trojans were just 12 of 19 from the line (63 percent), not good, but better than the 34 percent they shot in the Foundation Game.

Petaluma continued to show accuracy from outside, dropping home eight 3-pointers.

“We still want to get to the rim, but they were leaving the perimeter open and we were able to make adjustments,” noted Petaluma coach Scott Behrs.

“We were much improved in executing under pressure, and we crashed the boards hard o get second opportunities.”

The score was tied at 5-5 midway through the first period when Jack Anderson dropped in a trey. Before the initial period was complete, Brendan O’Neill and Whitaker Ellis had added distance hits of their own, Petaluma led, 16-5, and the rest of the game was played pretty much for experience.

Petaluma got a little sloppy with the basketball in the second period, but with Garrett Gehring and Ellis adding 3-pointers to the growing Trojan bomb list, still reached intermission solidly in front, 32-16.

The Trojan firing continued through the third quarter with Ellis confidently dropping in three more treys and Devin Gottschall adding another as the Petaluma advantage grew to 55-27, and cleared the way for an almost all-bench final quarter.

Highlight of the reserve round for the Petalumans was a nice court debut by football quarterback Justin Wolbert who aggressively attacked the basket, leading to fouls and he converted four freebees in four attempts, helping somewhat salvage his team’s line percentage.

Point guard Nick Cauz dropped in a pair of treys for his side as coaches used the quarter to give everyone a chance to play and themselves a chance to evaluate players for future contests. Cauz led Terra Linda with 13 points.

Ellis continued his outstanding play for Petaluma’s Trojans. Not only did he score 19 points, but he played outstanding defense, preventing Terra Linda’s over-matched guards from setting up their team’s offense.

Whittaker led a list of nine Petaluma scorers. O’Neill added 11 points, Anderson 10 (along with several blocked shots), Robbie Isetta and Garrett Gehring eight apiece.

Zack Clark and George Tynes were impressive off the bench with five points apiece, as was Wolbert who had his four points from the foul line.

Petaluma now takes a short holiday break to work on lessons learned in its Foundation Game and first real win before returning to the court Dec. 5 for a 7 p.m. at Novato High School.