By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a crucial girls basketball battle to open the second half of the North Bay League, it was second-place Montgomery that came out with energy and solo league-leader Santa Rosa that came out flat on Tuesday night.
The result was an impressive 58-47 victory for the host Vikings and a three-way tie for the NBL lead among Montgomery (15-5, 6-2), Santa Rosa (15-5, 6-2) and Maria Carrillo (13-5, 6-2).
Santa Rosa entered the game on a roll, fresh off back-to-back victories over Analy and Cardinal Newman last week and sporting a one-game lead on the Vikings to start the NBL’s second half. The Panthers also had won the first meeting with the Vikings at Santa Rosa, 54-51, in overtime.
“This (loss) is a huge disappointment. We wanted to start the second half of the league season on a good note,” Santa Rosa coach Steve Chisholm said. “Montgomery just flat-out beat us.”
The Vikings served notice early that it would be their night. After a 4-0 start for Santa Rosa, Montgomery went on a 26-11 run over the next 13 minutes of the first half to lead 26-15 with 1:52 left before the break.
“I hand it to Montgomery, they came out fired up,” Chisholm said. “We got off to a nice start and then things didn’t go well after that.”
The Vikings thrived off their home-court crowd.
“What a great crowd tonight, the girls were anxious to play this game,” Montgomery coach Steve Bell said. “We had good energy tonight. The fact that the girls were working together speaks volumes.”
Santa Rosa had a notable height advantage, especially inside.Santa Rosa’s star post player Morgan Bertsch had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Panthers.
“We didn’t get the ball into our bigs enough,” Chisholm said. “We turned the ball over too much. … We didn’t execute.”
Montgomery led 29-24 at halftime, but Santa Rosa went on a 6-0 run late in the third quarter to cut the Vikings’ lead to 35-34 after the Panthers’ Alison Wendler converted a bucket.
Montgomery went on a 16-4 run over a five-minute stretch to take a 51-38 lead and ice the game.
“Santa Rosa is a quality team. Our girls did a good job of closing down their shooters,” Bell said. “The challenge when you play Santa Rosa is that they like to pound the ball inside and they can shoot from the outside. We tried to contain them and help each other out on defense.”
The Vikings were led by Chantal Evett with 15 points.
“This is a really big win for our girls,” Bell said. “This sets a good tone going into the second half of the (league) schedule.”