Girls basketball: Santa Rosa stands alone in NBL

Santa Rosa’s Katie Daly drives to the basket during Friday’s game against Cardinal Newman. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Santa Rosa’s Katie Daly drives to the basket during Friday’s game against Cardinal Newman. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In front of possibly the largest crowd to ever witness a regular-season girls basketball game in the Redwood Empire, Santa Rosa defeated visiting Cardinal Newman, 57-41, on Friday night.

What brought out the packed house was a battle between unbeaten teams in the NBL. At the halfway point of league play, the Panthers stand alone at the top with a 7-0 record.

While the final score was one-sided, the game had its moments of drama.

Santa Rosa started quickly and enjoyed a 15-2 advantage after one quarter.

Newman began chipping away at the lead in the second and got as close as three points at the start of the third.

The Cardinals still were within three with 4:45 left in the period. However, the Panthers ended the quarter with a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach.

Morgan Bertsch scored six during the run on a layup and two put-back baskets. Devin Murray and Kylie Oden each had a bucket and Katie Daly contributed two free throws.

Bertsch, the tallest player on the court at 6-foot-4, finished with 14 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.

“Newman did a good job of boxing out,” Bertsch said. “I tried to stay low to get in better position and then reached up when the ball was on the rim.”

Bertsch played the final few minutes with a possible torn ligament in her hand.

Santa Rosa had only two offensive rebounds in the first half, but garnered 14 in the second half.

“Working hard on the offensive board was one of the things we talked about at halftime,” coach Steve Chisholm said. “We did a much better job getting second and third chance points in the second half.

“We also tightened up the defense and were more patient looking for shots.

“Newman played real well in the second quarter and the first part of the third. I knew my team would respond to the pressure and they did.”

Murray was the top scorer for Santa Rosa with 19.

“We got a little nervous when Newman got within three,” Murray said. “However, we kept our composure and finished the game strong.”

Daly, the reigning All-Empire Player of the Year, was close to a triple-double.

She had 12 points, seven steals and six assists.

Tiffany Salinas took scoring honors for Newman with 15 points. Next was Julia Bertolero with eight.

While disappointed in the outcome, Cardinals coach Monica Mertle saw bright spots in the loss.

“The girls played as hard as they could,” she said. “That’s all I ask of them.

We did a good job and when we meet later in the season at our place, we’ll make some adjustments. We’re improving.”

Santa Rosa, now 17-1, will have little time to savor the victory.

The Panthers play Brentwood at noon today in the Campolindo/Bentley Showdown in Lafayette.

Cardinal Newman, 13-6, is off until next Tuesday when the Cardinals travel to Ukiah.

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