Casa earn praise for victory over Ukiah

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After the Casa Grande girls had held off Ukiah’s Lady Wildcats, 51-46, Saturday night, Casa coach Dan Sack gave his team a solid performance review — exceeds expectations.

“This was the first time this season we’ve beaten a team we weren’t supposed to beat,” the coach said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to beat Ukiah.”

The non-league win improved Casa Grande to 8-6 for the season. The Lady Gauchos are 2-1 against Vine Valley Athletic League opponents.

What gave Saturday’s game even more meaning was that Ukiah came into the contest with a reputation as a Casa Grande nemesis. “We hadn’t beaten them in the last two years,” Sack pointed out.

Making the win even more impressive was a deep game-opening hole Casa Grande dug that allowed Ukiah to score the contest’s first 13 points.

Ukiah senior guard Lani Lincoln popped in a 3-pointer to start the game, but the rest of the Wildcat points in the streak came on drives to the hoop through a porous Casa Grande middle defense.

“That is the third consecutive game where we’ve come out flat,” Sack said. “We weren’t ready to compete.”

Casa Grande’s only points of the first quarter came on free throws, three by Cassie Llaverias and two by Trinity Merwin. By the end of the quarter, Ukiah led, 15-5.

Things turned the game completely around in the second quarter.

For starters, the Gauchos began to play the spirited defense that has become a Casa Grande trademark.

“We were playing hard on defense, but we weren’t playing with the frenzy we need to disrupt offenses,” Sack explained.

That frenzy came in the second quarter, and arrived simultaneously with senior guard Emma Reese heating up the Coach Ed Iacopi Gymnasium with a torrid shooting streak.

While Casa Grande’s defense forced six Ukiah turnovers, Reese lofted in five 3-pointers, and, just for a change, also drove for a two-point lay-in.

For the period, Ukiah scored 10 points, Reese 17 and Casa Grande 22. From an 0-13 start, Casa Grande reached the half with a 27-25 lead.

Reese cooled off in the second half, but Merwin hit a pair of treys in the third quarter, and continued to charge the hoop for lay-ins and free-throw opportunities as Casa gradually took control in the final period.

The decisive blow was delivered by Emily Boulad. With Casa clinging to a tenuous 43-41 lead with about four minutes remaining, the junior connected on a 3-pointer that gave the Lady Gauchos a five-point lead (46-41) that it protected to the end.

Reese and Merwin each ended with 17 points for the Gauchos, while Llaverias tossed in six.

The Casa Grande junior varsity dropped a tough, 52-50, overtime game to the Ukiah JVs.

The game was tied 47-47, at the end of regulation before Ukiah pulled out the win at the foul line.

The varsity win over Ukiah was the second of the weekend for the Casa varsity that, the night before, had defeated American Canyon, 48-30, in a Vine Valley Athletic League contest.

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