NBL girls basketball: Cardinal Newman knocks off Casa Grande 43-26


Fresh off a win that claimed a piece of the North Bay League title, Cardinal Newman defeated Casa Grande 43-26 on Tuesday night in the league tournament semifinals.

With a share of the league crown under their belt, Cardinals coach Monica Mertle said her team needed to focus on the Gauchos and not look ahead to a possible berth in Saturday’s championship game.

“We stress that every game we play is the most important game we play,” Mertle said.

Kylie Kiech led the Cardinals, scoring 12 of her 17 points in the first half to push Cardinal Newman’s lead to 23-11. She was 6 of 7 from the free line in the first half.

“You can’t overlook it. We had to make sure to get this win,” Kiech said.

Cardinal Newman started with a “panicked” offense, Kiech said, and it was important to regain a calm head.

“We just needed to keep our composure and settle down,” she said.

“You just have to keep going at it and keep shooting to keep your confidence up.”

The Gauchos forced 14 turnovers, but couldn’t produce as many scoring opportunities against a strong Cardinals defense, Casa Grande coach Dan Sack said.

“When you’re playing the No. 1 seed, you have to get more stops than we did,” he said. “They did a terrific job disrupting us on their defense.”

Tiffany Salinas finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for Cardinal Newman, while Hailey Vice-Neat had nine points, four rebounds and two blocks. Julia Bertolero had four points and Alex Dotti added two points.

The game may not have been as pretty as the Cardinals would have liked, Mertle said, but Newman’s defense has been the team’s foundation all season.

“Our defense and rebounding won us the game,” she said. “Casa does a great job of putting pressure on other teams, and they’re scrappy and fast. Our defense won us that game.”

Brooke Santander hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to bring Casa Grande within eight points.

It was as close as the Gauchos would get.

“At times, we played terrific,” Sack said.

“I felt we could get out and pressure but we didn’t do it for 32 minutes. We played good defense and we played poor defense in a mixture of possessions.”

Santander finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Cassidy McKinney finished with seven points. Meagan Burke and Molly Lundquist scored two points each.

Grace Arancio and Kayla Ryan each hit a free throw.

Angela Llaverias got her hand on five blocks as she anchored the Gauchos “inconsistent defense,” Sack said.

“She’s our best interior defender,” he said, “and when we gave up baskets on the inside, it’s because she had to go out on the perimeter. She does all that at 5-8.”

With the win, Cardinal Newman improved its record to 21-6 overall and 14-1 in the NBL. The Cardinals face Santa Rosa on Saturday in the NBL championship game.

The Gauchos fell to 15-12 overall and 7-8 in the NBL.

Casa Grande will now await the seedings for the North Coast Section playoffs, which begin next week.

“They (Cardinal Newman) deserve to be headed back to that matchup with Santa Rosa,” Sack said.

“We competed and we are happy with that.”

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