By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Facing a strong league slate, the Analy Tigers played with purpose in holding off Healdsburg to open the Sonoma County League girls’ basketball season Thursday.
Tested by a tough nonleague schedule, the young Tigers are learning to play together with calm determination. Against Healdsburg, the Tigers built a big league and withstood a pair of rallies by the gritty Greyhounds to win 47-34.
“Tonight was pretty good,” said Hayley Louzao, who helped Analy go ahead to stay in the first half. “Our defense is getting better. We’re definitely communicating better.”
Slow starts have hurt Healdsburg in losses this season. Thursday the Greyhounds were down 17 points early in the third quarter before finding their footing and cutting the deficit in half until Analy regained a double-digit lead at the end.
“It was nerves. We have some young starters,” said HelenAnn Haun, the Greyhounds’ lone returning front-line player. “But we did pretty well tonight on their home court.”
What both teams shared was strong defense and physical play, an ability to generate steals and run the floor.
Analy was better at creating open shots and on the boards. Healdsburg was most effective pressing on defense to spark the offense.
The difference was greater depth and more balanced scoring by the Tigers. Ten Analy players scored Thursday.
“Everybody contributes. We share the points well. We love help,” said Tigers post player Jessie Davidson.
After spotting Healdsburg the game-opening basket and missing several scoring chances, Analy went on a 15-0 run to take control early in the second period.
Leading the Tigers in the first half were top scorer Jenna Petray, who totaled 13 on the night, and Louzao, scoring her 10 in the first two periods.
Defensive energy got the Tigers going.
Tall and long-armed, Analy plays an aggressive zone. Against the Greyhounds, Analy largely shut down passing lanes, closed well on shooters and created a number of second-chance shots following offensive rebounds.
Healdsburg struggled to shoot over the zone and was frustrated with too many misses if the Greyhounds managed to make entry passes.
When the Greyhounds did hit shots, they could set up a full-court defense. The press proved effective in the second half when Healdsburg harassed Analy into turnovers, leading to fast breaks and open shots.
Anchoring the defensive effort was McKenzie Schaffner. A fast guard-forward, she forced a handful of steals and finished several fast breaks.
Benefiting from the faster pace was Haun, who found more open shots in leading the Greyhounds with 13 points.
“The main part of the game is defense. We need to work on starting out games faster,” Haun said.
With a dozen league games, the SCL teams are now looking to reach the North Coast Section playoffs.
“It’s a new season, a new start,” Louzao said.
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or email@example.com.