Casa gets a share of first

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Casa Grande vaulted into a first-place tie in the Vine Valley Athletic League girls basketball race with a dominating 55-42 win over Vintage of Napa in the Coach Ed Iacopi Gym on Thursday night. The Lady Gauchos led from wire to wire to avenge an earlier loss at the hands of the Crushers. The teams now rest at the top of the league with identical records of 6-1.

“Our press was soft the first time we played them,” said Gaucho coach Dan Sack prior to the opening tip. “I think it will be different this time.” It was.

The energetic Gauchos forced eight turnovers in the first half from the normally patient Crusher back court, and Casa Grande broke to a 30-18 halftime advantage.

Casa guards Sophia Gardea and Trinity Merwin channeled Vintage into ill-advised passes that led to several opportunity shots by the hosts. Senior Sam Dedrickson banked in two shots underneath, and added a shot from distance in the early rally.

Gardea set the tone for the game by poking away the ball from a Crusher dribbler in the back court, then racing to the opposite end for an acrobatic lay-in to extend the Gaucho lead to 10 points midway through the second period.

Gardea had an aggressive outing with seven steals before being forced to leave with leg cramps with less than three minutes to go.

It was more of the same throughout the second half as Casa Grande grimly held onto its lead. Vintage cut the advantage to eight points on a basket by senior Alyssa Andrews but could get no closer. Andrews, averaging 13.9 points per game, had a valiant second half with 12 of her game-high 17 points.

In the final analysis, it was too much full-court pressure by the revved-up Gauchos, who played as if they were on a mission. Fourteen Crusher turnovers came as a result of aggressive double teaming in the back court.

Gardea played aggressively nonstop before being helped from the floor with the game decided. She led Casa in scoring with 16 points and added five assists. Back-court mate Merwin chipped in with 10 points.

“That was the second consecutive good effort by Sophia,” noted Sack. “She played very well in our last game against Napa.”

Dedrickson continued to play a big role of late with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Six of her points came in the final stanza. Emma Reese tossed in eight points for the Gauchos as they improved to 12-6 for the season.

Both coaches recognized the absence of key Crusher guard Nicole Gleeson. The 5-foot, 10-inch senior missed the contest with flu symptoms.

“She played at the top of their 1-3-1 zone in the second half of our first game, and we could not get the ball by her,” said Sack.

“Nicole leads our team in deflections, and I think she is the best defender in the league this year,” said Vintage coach Joe Donohoe. “We have no excuses, though. We got beat tonight. It would be interesting to play them again. Casa is a good team.”

The Lady Gauchos, riding the crest of a six-game win streak, will break from league play on Monday afternoon when they travel to face a very good Marin Catholic team.

Casa made it a sweep on the evening with a 44-28 win in the preliminary junior varsity game.

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