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NCS girls basketball: Gauchos lose leader, then game

By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

CONCORD — The Casa Grande High girls basketball team didn’t have an answer for Clayton Valley’s full-court pressing defense, as the Gauchos were eliminated by the Eagles 61-35 in the North Coast Section Division 2 quarterfinals Friday night.

Clayton Valley pulled ahead 23-9 after one period and led by almost 20 at the half. Gauchos coach Dan Sack said they couldn’t contain the Eagles offense or get around their press.

“We were never able to really dent that,” he said. “They got 23 in the first quarter, 10, 13, 15 (in subsequent quarters). Those are much better after that initial burst, right? We made some adjustments but if you’re going to score 6, 12, 8, you can’t give up 38 in those three quarters.”

The Gauchos lost point guard Lyndsey Murnin to a left knee injury in the first quarter. Sack said losing Murnin forced Casa to adapt on the floor. Brooke Santander took control after Murnin departed, finishing with 18 points.

“Lyndsey and Brooke don’t come off the floor,” Sack said. “Our subs came in under that pressure … did a great job, but everybody is more comfortable (with Murnin). … She’s our senior, she’s our leader; she’s who everybody has confidence in.”

Murnin had seven points before the injury. Sack tried to put her back in the game in the second quarter but she was too hurt to play effectively.

“Half of it is what she does physically, but the other half is just the emotional leadership part,” he said.

Santander said losing Murnin was tough.

“She mainly handles most of our pressure as a guard,” Santander said. “But our bench came in and they gave 100 percent, but they obviously don’t have the experience that Lyndsey does. We just kind of had to adapt and it wasn’t enough.”

The Eagles powered their way to the basket and dominated the post through all four quarters.

“You’ve got to get stops, and we weren’t able to do enough of that. And even when we did, the ball would come off the rim and they would get the put-back,” Sack said.

Santander closed the gap to 13 points in the third quarter with three 3-point field goals, but the Eagles finished the quarter on a 9-3 run to head to the fourth with a 19-point lead.

“We wanted to take advantage of our opportunities,” Santander said. “So I saw some open shots and I wanted to take them.”

She said this wasn’t the first time the Gauchos faced a press defense this year.

“We did play in the East Bay a lot during the preseason so we did play some teams that did have a lot of pressure,” Santander said.

Prior to this meeting, Casa Grande defeated Clayton Valley 54-45 in the 2009 West Coast Jamboree and blew out the Eagles at the 2011 Mats tipoff classic, 60-37.

In this year’s playoffs, the Gauchos defeated Washington of Fremont 67-44 on Tuesday, while Clayton Valley had a bye. The Eagles host No. 3-seeded Montgomery next Wednesday.