By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Taller, deeper Casa Grande never trailed yet found little comfort in playing pesky Petaluma in the latest crosstown basketball classic Tuesday.
A second-quarter spurt fueled by leading scorer Cetrick Yeanay carried Casa Grande to a double-digit lead. Petaluma won the third quarter with inspired defense, but couldn’t match their rivals’ run to open the fourth period in the 52-36 Gauchos win.
“We definitely should have played better. But we just kept firing,” Yeanay said. “Our goal every game is to leave it on the line.”
The contest revealed what Petaluma must accomplish to compete, namely limit turnovers, stay close on the boards, and control pace. The Trojans did enough, leaning on improved defense to keep the game within reach for stretches.
“We played hard defensively. We have to finish better on offense,” said Clay Swanson, the Trojans sharp shooting guard.
While the game was sped up and ragged at times, the crowd packed inside the Petaluma gym cheered loud and proud.
Both teams — now in different leagues for the first season — are working on their games with few returning starters on either side.
“We will get better, which comes from experience. You’ve got to go out and play games,” said Casa Grande coach James Forni.
Casa Grande’s strength is putting up points with three double-digit scorers led by Yeanay, who led all scorers with 15. But with only Kyle Kaupe scoring near his average, with 10, Casa Grande relied on a full court press and rugged rebounding to forge a lead and hold back Petaluma.
“Our defense helps us create opportunities,” Yeanay said. “It was all right, but we expect more.”
The press forced Petaluma into seven first-half turnovers including sparking the 9-0 second quarter scoring spurt that led to Casa Grande’s ten point halftime lead.
Defense helped Petaluma cut into the deficit with Swanson on top and Eric Hunsicker holding his own down low against the Gauchos sturdy post players.
“We’re good on the ball. We get back pretty well,” said Petaluma coach John Behrs. “If we can box out better on the boards we can compete.”
After spotting Casa Grande the opening basket in the third period, Petaluma won the quarter. Swanson, mired in foul trouble the first half, scored 11 of his 13 in the second half. Hunsicker worked hard for his dozen points on the night.
“The Casa games always start out fast paced. The second half is when we started playing basketball,” Swanson said.
Then the Gauchos finally found a rhythm with sharper passing and movement creating more open shots. Casa Grande put away the game with an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.