Casa stops Analy in SCL girls tournament final

By DOUG AMADOR
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Twice this season the Analy girls posted double-digit losses on Casa Grande, scoring 55 and 66 points in the process.

Casa Grande's Stephanie Sack led all scorers with 19 Saturday in the Gauchos' win over Analy. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

Dan Sack, the Gauchos’ head coach, decided to try a new defensive wrinkle for Saturday night’s Sonoma County League tournament championship game at Haehl Pavilion.
Scrap the matchup zone. Play more man-to-man. Stick with Analy’s shooters and pressure them relentlessly.

The result: a 44-35 victory for Casa Grande that abruptly put a halt to Analy’s 20-game winning streak. The Tigers, who went undefeated at 12-0 during the regular season, entered the game averaging 46.6 points.

“This was a big win for us,” Sack said. “We knew how tough the matchup was for us. We had a bye at the end of the (regular) season, so we had seven practices to prepare for Sonoma (in the SCL semifinal) and Analy.”

The extra practice sessions showed from the outset. Kiana Davis started things off with a 3-pointer, and from there Casa slowly built its lead with driving layups from Stephanie Sack, the coach’s daughter, and defensive pressure, led by center Elaine Weaver, that allowed Analy just two baskets from outside the key in the first half.

Casa entered the locker room at halftime with a 21-14 lead, led by Sack’s nine points. Meanwhile, Analy, which never led in the first half, was 5-of-28 from the floor, a paltry 18 percent.

“They decided to attack the basket from the beginning,” Analy coach Earl Pasamonte said. “It was a great strategy.”
The Gauchos knew they had to try something different from the previous two meetings, games the Tigers won 55-40 and 66-54.

Analy had the height advantage as well as the experience. The Tigers started four seniors and a junior, while the Gauchos went with one senior, a junior, two sophomores and a freshman.

But the Gauchos were the more aggressive team. They had several second-chance points with 16 offensive rebounds, seven by Lyndsey Murnin. They finished with 38 total rebounds, turned the ball over just eight times and had five steals.

Casa’s seven-point lead, however, quickly evaporated.

Kelley Benck, held to two points in the first half, nailed three consecutive 3-pointers, and the game was tied for the first time at 23-23 with 5:25 left in the third period.

Dan Sack called time out immediately.

“That’s the time a young team could crumble,” he said. “We had a slight breakdown on defense, that’s why I called the quick timeout. I told the ladies let’s not get away from the plan, let’s stay with the shooters, make them shoot under pressure.”

Analy continued to pound away, Katy Lowry’s basket giving the Tigers their first lead at 25-23. That was as big a lead as Analy would get as the teams continued traded points and the Tigers held a 29-28 lead entering the fourth.

Claire Sullivan’s bank shot tied the game, 33-33, with 4 minutes left, but those would be Analy’s final points from the field.

“When we took back the lead, we did not think we’d lose it,” Pasamonte said. “That’s been our trend all season. We only gave up 44 points tonight. But we only scored 35, and that’s the tough part.”

Casa took the lead for good when freshman Brooke Santander scored underneath and was fouled. Her free throw completed the 3-point play and the Gauchos led 36-33 with 3:41 left.

Stephanie Sack, who led all scorers with 19 points, put back her own missed layup for a 39-33 Gauchos’ lead, and Davis converted two free throws that put Casa up 42-35 with 35.4 seconds remaining — all but sealing the game.

Analy (21-6), which had hoped to secure a high seeding for the upcoming North Coast Section playoffs, will await the seeding committee’s decision today.

“We would have had a good argument for a No. 4 or 5 seed if we had won,” Pasamonte said. “Losing tonight might have hindered our getting the four or five spot.”

Casa, with a 19-9 record, is also curious as to where it will end up in the seeding process.

“Tonight’s result will be too late for the computer rankings,” Dan Sack said, “but the committee will know we won.”