Casa’s fast start does in T-Girls

Casa Grande opened the game against cross town rival Petaluma with a quick flurry, and held on for a 63-48 win in a physical first meeting between the girls basketball rivals Tuesday in Casa’s Coach Ed Iacopi Gym.

The Lady Gauchos jumped out to a 14-2 advantage in the opening minutes, and the T-Girls never recovered.

Six Gauchos scored in the opening stanza when the pressing hosts were quicker to each contested ball with point guard Trinity Merwin leading the way with five points and four steals.

Shooting guard Emma Reese found the range with a couple of bombs from behind the arc, and it was only the beginning for the senior, who had command of her quick releases from the left side of the floor.

Petaluma recovered from the initial Gaucho assault and played evenly with Casa most of the way, but could not turn the corner. Rose Nevin began to take control of the boards on both ends and 3-pointers by Rachael Bles and Mallory O’Keefe off the bench got the Petaluma supporters back into the game, and it was 33-21 at intermission.

Casa Grande guards Merwin and Sophie Gardea continued to control the tempo, but Petaluma regained composure under the steady ball handling of guard Paris Buchanan and reliable top scorer Sheriene Arikat to slice the margin to 48-41 in the third period. The big contingent of Trojan supporters found some hope, but their team got no closer, thanks to another explosion by Reese in the opening moments of the fourth stanza.

Reese, who has been in a slump early in the season, continued to find the range with high lofted triples that had the effect of a dagger to the Petaluma cause. Four shots found nothing but the bottom of the basket, and the wing shooter finished with a game-leading 18 points for the night. It was a reward for working diligently on her shot all summer.

The T-Girls kept plugging away, and they cut the lead to eight points on two occasions before baskets by Merwin and Reese put the game out of reach.

Nevin had a terrific outing for the T-Girls with 16 points and a whopping 17 rebounds. Arikat continued to plug away with 10 points in the second half to keep Petaluma within range. Nevin might have added to her T-Girl high of 16 points, but she converted only 6 of 11 free throws with many coming on the front end of 1-and-1 situations. Arikat tossed in 15 points to support the junior canter.

The steady Merwin tied Reese for game honors with 18 points, including crippling steals in the T-Girl back court. Gardea was a pest in the back court with five steals and 13 points.

The win was the fourth without a loss in Vine Valley Athletic League play for the Lady Gauchos, who sit alone in first place. It was the sixth win in a row for Casa (8-7) after a very difficult non-league schedule. Petaluma (12-3) fell to 2-1 in league play.

Gaucho coach Dan Sack was pleased with the manner in which his team opened the game. “We came out of the locker room and set a very strong tempo, and it made a difference tonight,” he said afterward.

First year Petaluma coach Sophie Bihn acknowledged that her team did come back from a discouraging first period, but noted, “We got a little nervous in the second half with our foul shooting.” The T-Girls missed five critical free throws in the second half.

Petaluma came back from a halftime deficit of 18-14 to defeat Casa Grande, 41-27, in the junior varsity preliminary game.

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