Sonoma rallies past Casa in SCL girls basketball

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SONOMA — In a remarkable comeback, Sonoma Valley took the lead for the first time with 27 seconds remaining while defeating Casa Grande, 30-27, in an SCL girls basketball game Thursday night.

Casa Grande's Elaine Weaver and Sonoma Valley's Karly Burningham go after the ball Thursday night at Sonoma. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Coach Sil Coccia used a different kind of motivation while urging his team to come back from a nine-point halftime deficit.

“Coach told us if we win this game, we don’t have to practice on Saturday,” leading scorer Annie Studdert said with a laugh. “That wasn’t our primary motivation, but it’s a bonus.”

Studdert finished with 12 points and her final basket completed the Dragons’ improbable comeback. The junior took the ball at the foul line, faked left and then made her way unguarded to the basket, where she made an easy layup.

Brittney Rachuy clinched the game with two free throws with three seconds remaining.

Coccia said prior to tip-off it was a statement game between the two best teams in the SCL. For the first 30 minutes, Casa looked superior. The Gauchos led 22-12 with 3:25 left in the third quarter and were coasting.

In the fourth quarter, however, the Gauchos scored only three points while Sonoma tossed in 11.

“We knew Sonoma would play hard all the way no matter what the score,” Casa coach Dan Sack said. “That’s their reputation. We had good looks in the second half, but the shots didn’t fall.”

Only three Casa players scored. Lindsay Murnin had 19 while Stephanie Sack and Kiana Davis finished with four each.

“We are defined by our defense,” Coccia said. “We locked them down in the second half, pushed the tempo on offense and finally got some shots to fall in the fourth quarter.

“We never really got into an offensive rhythm, so it was good to win a game when we didn’t play our best.”

One reason Sonoma was able to come back was the rebounding of 5-foot-7 forward Ellie Ceja. The junior pulled down 19 rebounds, a majority of those on the offensive end. She also scored five points.

“Sonoma just killed us rebounding,” Sack said. “That’s something we’re going to have to work on.”

Coccia also said Sonoma has a few kinks to iron out in order to challenge for the SCL crown.

“Our foul shooting isn’t very good,” he said. “In the first half, we hit one of 11. That was one of the things I talked to the girls about at halftime. We played about as poorly as we could play and still were only down three possessions. I told them we can come back.”

And the promise of no Saturday practice helped.

The Dragons improved to 10-4 and 2-0 in league. They’ve won four straight.

Casa, who started five underclassmen, are 8-6 and 1-1.