“That felt like a playoff game,” said Petaluma High School boys basketball coach Scott Behrs.
In a sense, his Trojans and Casa Grande’s Gauchos were playing for something even bigger than a playoff win when they clashed Tuesday night in Casa’s Coach Ed Iacopi Gymnasium. They were playing for pride.
Not to draw out the suspense for those who don’t know, Petaluma won, 61-49.
As the season progresses, the score will be all that remains, but for those who were there and especially for the players and coaches the elation of victory and the pain of defeat will linger as they move through a season that still holds the promise of success for both teams.
Tuesday night, the intensity on the court was matched by the passion in the stands as rooting sections from both sides fogged the gym in good-natured enthusiasm.
Ultimately, the difference in a game that was closer than the final score indicates, was Petaluma’s ability to take advantage of its size difference by consistently feeding big men David Gottschall (6-feet, 2-inches) and Jack Anderson (6-4). Each scored 24 points.
“That’s the Jack Anderson I know and love,” Behrs said, adding, “Devin played Petaluma basketball.”
On the other side, junior Garrett Siebels seemed to be, at times particularly in the second half, the entire Casa Grande offense. He finished with 20 points. Noah Bailey also had some big hits for Casa, ending with 12 points.
Charity played a big part in the game, with Casa a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line in the first half, but not going to the line at all in the second.
Petaluma was 18-for-22 for the game, with the vast majority of the trips warranted as the Gauchos struggled to contain Gottschall and Anderson, who combined to go 15-for-16 from free land.
Trojan depth was also a factor. Playmaker Trey Davis and outside threat Whittaker Ellis both were confined to the bench for long periods because of fouls. Robbie Isetta and Justin Wolbert both provided valuable minutes. Wing Brendan O’Neill provided important ball-handling abilities.
Arguing well for the Gaucho future, sophomores Tony Sabella and Taiju Grant made key contributions to the Casa cause.
Gottschall accounted for Petaluma’s first six points, and a quick 6-3 lead, and the Trojans never trailed from that point, although Casa kept things tense right up to the closing minutes.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Gauchos closed the gap to seven (47-40), but Gottschall dashed Casa dreams of a comeback with a 3-pointer. A couple of minutes later, Anderson added a trey of his own and the suspense was over.
“We finally played up-tempo for an entire game,” said Behrs. “We were finally able to pull away when we had a lead.”
“They executed a whole lot better than we did,” noted Casa Grande coach Jake Lee. “We spent so much effort on our offense, that we made mistakes on defense.”
Neither team can afford to reflect too much on the outcome. Petaluma, now 3-3 on the season, travels to Napa on Friday to play Vintage, a team that will be with them in a new league next season. Casa Grande, now 1-5, hosts its Brett Callan Memorial Tournament this weekend, opening against Analy on Thursday at 8 p.m.