Panther girls win NBL tournament

Santa Rosa’s Shawnee Phillips goes up for a shot as Montgomery’s Anandi Jimenez, left, and Claire Donnelly, right, defend during the NBL championship game held at SRJC, Feb. 18, 2011. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / PD).

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Part of the fun of the North Bay League girls tournament is playing the final game on the neutral court of Santa Rosa Junior College.

Neutral? Not Friday night, it wasn’t. Just a block away from the Santa Rosa High campus, Haehl Pavilion became Panther Country, and the orange-and-black student body wound up storming the court after Santa Rosa’s 48-41 victory over rival Montgomery.

This was the rubber match — each school won on the other’s court in the past month — and the Panthers bounced to a tournament title to match their regular-season championship.

It was a lot harder fought than Santa Rosa’s 54-34 victory at Montgomery on Feb. 8.

The Panthers gradually built a 36-22 lead by the 1:44 mark of the third quarter. But the Vikings scored the final nine points of the period and later cut the gap to 37-34 with two minutes gone in the fourth.

But Santa Rosa scored the next six points, and Montgomery never got within five for the rest of the game. Junior forward Hannah Sourek stepped up for the Panthers and made 3 of 4 free throws in a couple of one-and-one situations.

The formula was the same for Santa Rosa as it has been for most of the year: hounding defense, tough rebounding and balanced scoring. Sourek led the Panthers with 13 points, senior guard Shawnee Phillips had 10, freshman guard Katie Daly scored eight, senior forward McKennan Bertsch had seven and senior point guard Rachel Brumfield added six.

It was a much different story for Montgomery, with senior forward Anandi Jimenez scoring 19 points and no one else tallying more than seven.

In that 20-point win at Montgomery, the Panthers did a great job of limiting Jimenez and forcing her into low-percentage shots. This time, she wouldn’t be stopped at either end of the court. Jimenez, who gashed her head during a victory over Ursuline on Tuesday, blocked at least a half-dozen shots and kept the Vikings in the game with her inside scoring and free throws.

But Jimenez scored just one field goal in the fourth quarter, and Montgomery often has trouble finding points when their top scorer is cold.

As always, Phillips did a little bit of everything for the Panthers, reaching into passing lanes for steals and getting the transition going when the chance arose.

But just as important Friday was Daly, the preternaturally poised freshman who played man defense against Montgomery point guard Sarah Fitzgerald for most of the night. Fitzgerald is physical and confident, but Daly stayed right with her.

“She’s gotten better and better as the season has gone along,” Chisholm said. “I have no hesitation sticking her on the opposition’s best ball handler.”

Both of these teams go into the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs at 21-7, and each should draw a high seed. The difference is that Montgomery goes in having lost four of its past six. Santa Rosa heads into the section on a nine-game winning streak.

“We have a lot of confidence going into NCS, because we finished strong,” Phillips said.