NCS girls basketball: Sonoma Academy battles to victory

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Quick and hungry much like their Coyotes mascot, Sonoma Academy put away bigger Marin Academy with long stretches of aggressive play for an opening-round girls section playoff win Wednesday.

Sonoma Academy was best when battling for rebounds, snagging steals, and sharing the scoring load with Kate Bayes in the 57-42 home win.

Determined defense helped Sonoma Academy hold off a second-half Marin Academy rally that whittled a 15-point Coyotes lead until only a pair of scores separated the squads midway through the final period.

“Our speed and quickness was the difference. We definitely stepped it up with our man defense,” said Willow Gallagher, the Coyotes' quickest player and pesky defender.

Using its height advantage to come back, Marin Academy regained the rebounding advantage and repeatedly scored inside. But the Coyotes had the stronger legs in the end.

“We actually had a pretty good game. We had a lot more patience and a lot better passing,” said Emily Klein, who led the Wildcats with 21 points. “We probably lost a little quickness in the end. They’re really quick.”

Next up for Sonoma Academy is a Friday contest at University, in San Francisco. While the Coyotes are the higher seed, University gets the home game as a league champion.

To win on the road, Sonoma Academy must avoid the type of ragged play they opened with Wednesday. Then the Coyotes pressured across the floor on defense, chased down passes and rebounds, and closed out on shooters.

Defense fueled an 11-0 first-quarter Coyotes scoring run, with Bayes putting in 10 for the period on the way to 28 on the night.

After the Wildcats opened the second period with five straight from Amanda Klein, the Coyotes went on a 13-0 spurt.

Pressure on Marin Academy outside made passing into the post more difficult and Sonoma Academy snared five of the team’s 11 steals during the second quarter.

Sharing the scoring with Bayes were sharpshooter Savannah Stoughton and slasher Gallagher. The guard pair have filled some of the void following the loss to injury of second-leading points producer Kiana Herold in December.

“We are trying to make up for her absence. Teams are double- and triple-teaming Kate, so the other girls are open,” said Sonoma Academy coach Kevin Christensen.

Another statistic reflecting Sonoma Academy’s effort was a rebounding advantage against a team playing three 6-footers. Credit a game of “war” where no fouls are called in practice this week.

“We box out, we go for the rebounds, we go as hard as we can,” Gallagher said.

A more determined Marin Academy rebounding effort and improved ball control helped the Wildcats work for better shots and putbacks in the third period. The Coyotes' lead was down to five entering the fourth period.

Both teams banged for boards with so many shots just rolling out during a three-minute scoreless stretch to open the final period.

A dribble drive by Bayes broke the drought, but Emily Klein answered with a three-point play the old fashioned way. After swapping scores, Sonoma Academy ended the contest on a 12-2 run.

Stoughton had five of her 13 points in the quarter and Gallagher put in seven of her 12 including a four-point play when fouled on a deep basket.

Hustle and unselfish play again carried the Coyotes.

“Our team definitely pushes through tough situations,” Gallagher said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.