By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Katie Daly learned before tip-off Tuesday she had been voted league co-MVP and then the point guard celebrated by leading top-seeded Santa Rosa to a 57-38 victory over visiting Maria Carrillo in an opening round game of the NBL Tournament.
The 5-foot-6 junior, who shares the award with Montgomery’s Claire Donnelly, scored 17 points and was also credited with seven rebounds, six steals and five assists.
The two MVPs will square off Friday night in the championship game. The No. 2 seed Vikings advanced by defeating Casa Grande. The girls will play at 6:30 p.m. at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Against Carrillo, the Panthers trailed only once (2-1). They led 17-8 after one quarter and 31-14 at halftime. The margin remained in double digits the entire second half.
“Daly makes everything go for us,” coach Steve Chisholm said after the game. “She plays excellent defense and on offense has excellent court sense and vision. I think she’s the best point guard in the NBL.”
Daly knocked down three shots from behind the arc and the remainder of her points came on fast breaks. Santa Rosa made 10 treys from 17 attempts, six of those goals by Kylie Oden.
The 5-foot-10 sophomore, who is averaging 10 points per game, led all scorers with 22.
“The threes and transition baskets were the key to the game,” Pumas coach Chris Walton said. “Those two things were the difference.”
For the fifth straight game, the Pumas were without Aaliyah Sowards. The point guard, who usually leads the team in scoring, was not in uniform. Mikaela Francis picked up the slack by scoring 17 points and pulling down 14 rebounds.
The Panthers took advantage of Sowards’ absence.
“Our game plan was to pick up their guards early and keep the pressure on them,” Chisholm said. “We wanted to make it difficult to get the ball inside. We did an outstanding job of that in the first half.”
For the game, Carrillo made only 25 percent of its shots (14-of-55). The Pumas missed 10-of-11 from 3-point land. The Pumas also turned the ball over 20 times.
“We were able to stop the guards from driving to the basket,” Daly said. “The steals led to a lot of transition baskets. We play our best when we’re able to run the court in transition.”
Santa Rosa’s record is now 22-5and the Panthers have won all 11 games they’ve played at home. Maria Carrillo is 15-11 and has lost six of its last seven.