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It’s not easy, but T-Girls complete SCL domination

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Petaluma High School’s T-Girl basketball team pulled one last Sonoma County League rabbit out of the hat Friday night, defeating Sonoma Valley’s Lady Dragons, 40-37, in overtime to win the SCL post-season tournament.

The win punctuated a magical season for the T-Girls, who played to a 23-5 record, undefeated to the league championship, and swept to the post-season tournament title by beating both Analy and Sonoma Valley for the third time each in the process.

Making their accomplishment even sweeter, the T-Girls will be the last league and tournament champions ever in the Sonoma County League. The SCL will be folded into a new two-division North Bay League next school year. Petaluma, Casa Grande and Sonoma Valley will join Napa schools in a new Vine Valley Athletic League.

League realignment was the farthest thing from the minds of the Petaluma and Sonoma players as they squared off Friday night in the Santa Rosa Junior College gym. Their only concern was the moment and the game.

That game quickly turned ugly for the T-Girls when scoring and rebounding leader Jadon Krist crumpled to the floor in pain, clutching her knee less than 30 seconds into the game.

Without the 5-foot, 11-inch junior, Petaluma struggled on the backboards against the scrappy Lady Dragons, who earned a multitude of second and third shots.

After both teams took out the garbage in the first quarter (a total of 18 turnovers and just 17 points), they settled down into a rugged battle of defenses, and neither side blinked.

Petaluma coach John Ratshin said the low-scoring struggle was not surprising.

“These two teams play great defense,” he said. “We’ve struggled to score against one another all season.”

The lead flipped back and forth the entire game.

Sonoma Valley slipped ahead 20-18 at the half on late 3-point connections from Alyssa Schimm and Annie Nieles and still led, 23-22, after three periods as the T-Girls got only one basket (a drive by Angelina Scaccalosi). Sonoma had increased its lead to 27-22 heading into the scheduled last period.

Sparked by Kelsey Martin, aided by Arikat, Petaluma scored the first six points of the fourth period and the race was on.

With a minute left, Sonoma Valley led, 31-28, but Arikat hit a short whirl-around jump shop to make it a one-point game.

Petaluma’s tenacious defense forced turnovers in Sonoma’s next two possessions, and with just 4.4 seconds left, Martin put up a desperation left-handed hook and was fouled in the process.

Martin missed the first of two offered free throws, but dropped in the second to tie the game at 31-31, to extend the tournament another four minutes.

The overtime was almost anti-climactic. Petaluma’s suffocating defense finally proved fatal to the game Lady Dragons, while the T-Girls had just enough left in the tank to take charge on baskets by Arikat, Martin and Nichole Costa, along with a crucial final free throw from Arikat.

Arikat, taking over the leadership role from Krist, scored 17 to lead the T-Girls with Scaccalosi adding nine. Alyssa Schimm, who at times was a one-girl force for Sonoma, led the Lady Dragons with 16 points.

“This means a lot, especially in my senior season,” said Costa. “There is no word to describe it but amazing.”

Petaluma enters the North Coast Section playoffs with a 23-5 record and a 14-0 mark aganst SCL opponents, 12-0 in regular season and 2-0 in the tournament.