Casa Grande ramped up its full-court pressure defense and ran away from the host Petaluma T-Girls, 44-30, in the second half of a Vine Valley Athletic League battle between the rival schools on Thursday.
The swarming Lady Gaucho defense forced 11 turnovers in the third period and held Petaluma scoreless from the floor through the entire fourth period.
It appeared to be an even battle in the spirited contest that ended in a 20-20 tie at halftime. Then Casa kicked its defense up a few notches, gradually easing away from the frustrated T-Girls. By midway through the final stanza, all of the air had been let out of the Petaluma tires.
The Lady Gauchos outscored Petaluma, 24-10, in the second half, and they forced many ill-advised attempted cross-court passes that led to the downfall of the Trojans. Petaluma didn’t score a basket in the second half until Cameron Ayers tossed in a 3-point shot with 3:19 on the clock.
Junior sharpshooter Emma Reese had another strong effort from outside the arc for the Gauchos, connecting on five shots from distance, including one 4-point play. Reese was hit on the wrist on a shot in the second period, and she went down as if hit with a stun gun. A successful trip to the line rewarded her fall.
Overall, the quick ball movement keyed by Trinity Merwin and Sophia Gardea on the perimeter produced open looks at the basket for Casa Grande.
“We got our shots tonight,” said a pleased Gaucho coach Dan Sack.
“In a rivalry game like this, it is important to get as many kids into the action as possible, and we were able to play all of our girls by the end of the first quarter, and still stay close,” Sack said. “We still had a game to win after halftime because Petaluma is a solid team, and so we used fewer players in our second-half rotation.”
The pinching match-up zone by the Gauchos shaded scoring star Sheriene Arakat of the T-Girls throughout the game, but the determined junior had her moments. One shuffle step left a Gaucho as if she was nailed to the floor and Arikat scored late in the third stanza. Arikat had eight points to pace the Petaluma offense.
Reese made the most of her time in the Gaucho rotation, scoring a game-high 16 points. She was followed by Merwin, who tossed in eight. Samantha Dedrickson contributed seven rebounds and seven steals.
The Lady Gauchos remain a threat to league-leading Vintage of Napa, holding on to second place in VVAL with a record of 4-1, one game out of first place. The Gauchos, 10-6 overall, will host the Crushers in the first game of the second round next Thursday. Vintage defeated Casa, 40-26, the first time around the league schedule. The Gauchos host Justin-Siena on Saturday.
T-Girl sophomore Rose Nevin continued her strong work around the boards with several hard earned rebounds against taller opposition. Nevin also tossed in four points. She had 67 boards in limited minutes for Petaluma leading into the game.
The T-Girls (1-3 in league, 8-8 overall) play back-to-back at home this weekend, hosting Las Lomas Friday and Piner Saturday afternoon.
Petaluma captured the junior varsity game, 47-42, holding off a late charge by Casa Grande.