NBL girls basketball: Cardinal Newman nudges Santa Rosa

Cardinal Newman's Tiffany Salinas (4) goes up for a layup between Santa Rosa's Devin Murray, left, and Morgan Bertsch during the NBL girls championship game Saturday night. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Tiffany Salinas (4) goes up for a layup between Santa Rosa’s Devin Murray, left, and Morgan Bertsch during the NBL girls championship game Saturday night. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman’s Hailey Vice-Neat is a freshman, but she played like a veteran in the second half of Saturday night’s championship game of the NBL Tournament at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The 15-year-old scored all 12 of her points after intermission, including seven in the pivotal final five minutes as the Cardinals defeated Santa Rosa 47-42.

Vice-Neat’s 3-point bullseye put the Cardinals ahead for good, 39-36.

“That was a big shot,” Newman coach Monica Mertle said. “It says a lot that at this stage of her career, she had the confidence to step up in a big game.”

After Morgan Bertsch’s basket brought Santa Rosa back to within one, the 6-foot-2 Vice-Neat came right back with a layup.

Santa Rosa cut the lead to one once again before Tiffany Salinas and Kylie Kiech both scored from in close to give Newman a 45-40 advantage.

Vice-Neat iced the game with two free throws in the waning seconds.

Santa Rosa got a lift when Bertsch was cleared to play after sitting out a recent game with concussion symptoms. The Panthers raced to a 7-0 lead before the standing-room-only crowd at SRJC got comfortable.

“We’re a young team and haven’t been on a big stage like this,” Mertle said. “It took us a little awhile to get our bearings.”

The Cardinals came back and trailed by only one, 13-12, at the end of the first quarter.

The Panthers upped the margin to two at halftime and it was 32-32 going to the fourth quarter.

Salinas led the Newman offense with 15 points. Like Vice-Neat, Kiech finished with 12.

Devin Murray took high-point honors for Santa Rosa with 12. Bertsch had 10 and Katie Daly contributed eight.

The two teams were league co-champs in the regular season. Newman will take a 22-6 record into next week’s North Coast Section Tournament, while Santa Rosa, at 25-3, also will be invited.

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