NCS girls basketball: Petaluma’s rally falls short

By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Petaluma High’s girls cut a 13-point deficit to just three points in the final seconds, but couldn’t come all the way back on Tuesday night.

Etiene Ekanem made five free throws in the last 83 seconds to lift 12th-seeded Hercules to a 63-57 upset of the fifth-seeded host in the North Coast Section Division 3 basketball tournament.

It was a tough night for the SCL girls, as runner-up Sonoma Valley lost at Novato. Analy lost at John F. Kennedy.

Petaluma had an eight-game winning streak snapped, after winning the Sonoma County League with a 12-0 record. The Trojans finish the season 25-4. Hercules, the runner-up in the Tri-County Stone League, advances with a 16-11 mark.

The Titans appeared to be in control of the game when DeBrianna Drake’s layup gave them a 55-42 lead with 4:58 left in regulation.

“We knew their strengths were execution and their size,” Hercules head coach Daniel Guy said. “So, we put a lot of pressure on their guards. It’s hard to execute when you’re under that type of pressure.”

Petaluma finally adjusted to the baseline-to-baseline pressure that produced a game filled with fouls, missed free throws and botched shots from under the hoop.

Katy Bisges, who finished with 20 points, made a free throw to start the Petaluma rally.

Joelle Krist, who sat out most of the first half in foul trouble, grabbed a rebound and scored to cut the Trojans’ deficit to 55-45. Center Allison Scranton muscled home a miss and was fouled. She made a free throw to make it 55-48 with 3:56 left.

“We didn’t get in an offensive set and run a single play all night,” Petaluma coach Doug Johnson said. “I don’t know what happened. Hercules played tough defense.”

Scranton scored again before Krist’s baseline shot trimmed the margin to just six points. She snared another rebound and passed ahead to Bisges, who hit a jumper to pull Petaluma to within 57-54 with 1:49 to play.

“Petaluma’s got a great team and they’re well coached,” Guy said. “We knew they wouldn’t give up. We had to keep the pressure up. We’ve changed our lineup to use the players who’ve played well under pressure a little more. That helped us tonight.”

Ekanem made two free throws and Petaluma’s Kierra Lizama one before an end-to-end race against the clock failed to go the Trojans’ way. Krist’s two free throws that trimmed the lead back to 60-57 with 40 seconds to play were Petaluma’s final points.

Krist finished with 18 points. Scranton scored nine.

“I thought when we tied the game 13-13 very early that we’d settled down,” Johnson said. “But that wasn’t what happened. We never set up our offense and the nerves showed.”

Ekanem, a slashing point guard, scored 13 points. Alyssa Rodriguez scored 13 for the Titans, including two 3-pointers from the left corner as Hercules built a big third-quarter lead.

“There’s no answer against a team who has every shot they throw up falling in,” Johnson said. “They made some shots I didn’t think would go in. There’s not a thing you can do when that happens.”

Carol Olden added 13 for the winners who created a frenzied pace, then thrived in it.

“We were the lower seed, but we thought we would win the game,” Guy said. “We watched them play a couple of different teams, so we scouted them well.”

You can reach Staff Writer Ted Sillanpaa at 526-8623 or ted.sillanpaa@pressdemocrat.com.

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