By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
SEBASTOPOL — At the beginning of the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Sonoma County League girls’ basketball game it appeared that Sonoma Valley’s 16-point lead would allow the Dragons to cruise easily to a win over host Analy.
By the end of the fourth quarter, however, things finished a little too close for comfort for the Dragons (10-8, 5-0) who weathered a furious late rally by the Tigers (7-10, 2-2) to only win 46-40.
“I was not real happy how we finished the game. We were tentative and not handling the ball well in the fourth quarter,” Sonoma coach Sil Coccia said. “Give Analy credit for fighting hard until the end.”
Even with the tepid finish by Sonoma, it was a win nonetheless and keeps the Dragons undefeated in league and sets up Saturday night’s SCL showdown when Sonoma hosts Petaluma. The Dragons and the Trojans are unquestionably the top two teams in the SCL right now.
Sonoma led 25-19 at halftime and went on a 14-4 blitz in the third quarter behind tough defense that forced Analy into a variety of offensive miscues.
“We turned the ball over in the third quarter,” Analy coach Earl Pasamonte said. “We were forcing it into the high post and it wasn’t there. Our turnovers led to Sonoma fast-breaks which led to buckets.”
With a seemingly safe 41-25 lead with 6:04 to play in the fourth quarter, Sonoma seemed to let up and Analy methodically fought back into the game and trailed only 43-38 with 34 seconds to play. The Tigers ultimately ran out of time to complete the comeback but finished on a high note.
“My team never has been one to give up,” Pasamonte said. “They work hard the whole game all the way to the final buzzer.”
On the flipside, Sonoma played a strong three quarters with good intensity only to taper off substantially in the fourth quarter.
“We had great pressure on defense to build the lead and did a great job extending our halftime lead through the third quarter,” Coccia said. “We were just stuck on 41 points for what seemed like a quarter. We need to step on the gas when we have a lead.”
Neither team shot well from the perimeter, with only two 3-point shots made in the game, both by Sonoma’s Ali Romano. Analy’s best outside shooter, Mikenna Martin, did not play due to sickness.
Sonoma was led by Ashley Vail with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Romano added 15 points.
“Vail had a monster game for her,” Coccia said. “It was her most complete game of the season.”
Analy was led as usual by post player Jenna Petray with 17 points.
“Petray is a nice talent,” Coccia said. “She has soft hands, good footwork and is a big body.”
Sonoma’s two post players — Vail and Mackenzie Albrecht did damage on the transition and hurt the Tigers with their athleticism and ability to run.
“My team had a hard time getting any rhythm offensively because we wanted to attack their bigs because those girls are exceptional players,” Pasamonte said. “Numbers 21 (Albrecht) and 32 (Vail) are so athletic in the post.”
Coccia concurred that his post players made a difference in the transition game.
“Our bigs ran the floor well,” Coccia said. “(But) we need to close the game better and finish strongly.”