By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PETALUMA — Casa Grande’s girls basketball team made its initial foray into the North Bay League a winning one Wednesday night as the Gauchos defeated Maria Carrillo, 37-36.
After years in the Sonoma County League, athletic teams from Casa and Windsor moved to the NBL last fall.
Brooke Santander was the hero for the Gauchos. The junior drained a 3-pointer with 1:18 on the clock to provide the margin of victory.
Carrillo would have its chances in the waning seconds. However, Dayna Dolcini thwarted the Pumas once with a steal and then two 3-point shots in the final seconds hit the rim and bounced out.
There were four lead changes in the fourth quarter and in the final seven minutes, neither team led by more than three.
“We’re happy to be in the NBL,” Casa coach Dan Sack said. “There’s not going to be any easy games and that’s the way we like it. The NBL is the third-toughest league in North Coast Section.
“I’m proud of my girls, they found a way to finish on offense and they played great defense all night. When Carrillo had the ball and a chance to win in the final seconds, we clogged the middle and had our hands up disrupting the 3-point shooters.”
Casa, the reigning SCL champs, lost All-Empire players Gretchen Harrigan and Stephanie Sack from that team.
“We’re still trying to find ways to score,” coach Sack said. “We’re starting to see improvement.”
Santander was the game’s top scorer with 13 points. She scored all nine of her team’s points in the first quarter. Point guard Lyndsey Murnin finished with 12.
The Gauchos were nearly perfect from the foul line, hitting 14-of-15.
Maria Carrillo, on the other hand, converted only 10-of-23.
“Execution and turnovers hurt us,” Pumas coach Chris Walton said.
“We played good ball in spurts, but consistency has been our problem all year and it was again against Casa.”
The Pumas turned the ball over 24 times.
Aaliyah Sowards led the Pumas with 12 points. Center Mikaela Francis added 11.
Francis was the game’s top rebounder with nine.
Carrillo’s record is now 5-4 while Casa improved to 7-6.