Santa Rosa girls lose to Clayton Valley

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CONCORD — The points were hard to come by at Clayton Valley High on Wednesday night. Bodies were guarded, shots contested, players hurried into poor decisions. Except for one brief interlude.

Santa Rosa's Shawnee Phillips, left, and McKennan Bertsch battle Clayton Valley’s Molly Kommer for the ball during Wednesday’s NCS playoff game. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Second-seeded Clayton Valley scored eight points in a span of 1:20 in the third quarter, hitting a string of open shots to go up 38-26 over No. 3 Santa Rosa. The Panthers have staged several rallies this season, but this was a hole they couldn’t escape. Despite cutting the deficit to three points twice in the fourth quarter, they fell 52-46 in a North Coast Section Division 2 semifinal.

“It was an even game, but that third quarter killed us,” Santa Rosa guard Shawnee Phillips said. “We tried to come back but we couldn’t do it.”

The loss snapped the Panthers’ 12-game winning streak, and preserved a Clayton Valley run that has now reached an impressive 20 games. The Eagles advance to face top-seed Dougherty Valley in the division championship.

This one was still in question until Clayton Valley’s Karley Menez hit a pair of free throws to make it 52-45 with 18 seconds left. It was appropriate that Menez capped the Eagles’ effort. The guard scored a game-high 23 points with a dazzling array of shots, including three 3-pointers, on a night when few others had success from the outside.

This was not a contest of depth. Santa Rosa coach Steve Chisholm didn’t make his first substitution until the 5:23 mark of the second quarter, and he didn’t sub liberally after that. Both he and Clayton Valley’s Bernard Barnes seemed content to ride their starters. Bench points? There wasn’t a single one.

“It was like, he’s going with his top five, and I’m going with my top five, and we’ll see what happens,” Barnes said.
Clayton Valley (26-2) looked to have a big edge as the players took the court before the game.

Eagles center Sarah Nelson, at 6-foot-4, towered over the other players.

Nelson was a destructive force at the defensive end, blocking and redirecting numerous shots. But she didn’t have a developed offensive game, and Santa Rosa’s inside players, McKennan Bertsch and Hannah Sourek, more than held their own in gutty performances. Bertsch led the Panthers with 18 points, and Sourek grabbed 13 rebounds.

Shawnee Phillips had 12 points for Santa Rosa (23-8), Sourek added nine points and four steals to her rebound total, and point guard Rachel Brumfield doled out five assists.

If the Panthers had a long drive to the game, they couldn’t cite a hostile road environment as a factor. The crowd, and especially the crowd noise, seemed evenly split, and the only cheerleaders on the court belonged to Santa Rosa.

“It’s been like that all year,” Chisholm said.

“Even when we go away, the support we get from parents, fans, the student body, admin is just fantastic.”

The Panther Backers will get at least one more chance. They’ll find out Sunday whom Santa Rosa opens with in the NorCal tournament next week. Chisholm said they’ll take Thursday off, then get back to work Friday, ready to bounce back from a rare loss.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.