All-Empire Large School Girls Basketball: Panther pair share honor

All-Empire large school girls basketball co-players of the year, Katie Daly and Morgan Bertsch of Santa Rosa. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)

All-Empire large school girls basketball co-players of the year, Katie Daly and Morgan Bertsch of Santa Rosa. (CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat)


The Santa Rosa girls basketball team had a brilliant season, going 28-5 and advancing to the second round of the CIF NorCal Division 1 playoffs. But was the Panthers’ push fueled by Morgan Bertsch, the top post player in the Redwood Empire, or by Katie Daly, the area’s best all-around point guard? Eleven inches separate their heights; their levels of contribution were practically indistinguishable.

Daly and Bertsch were co-MVPs in the North Bay League, and when the Panthers voted for team MVP, they split their ballots down the middle for the two seniors. They’ll share this award as well: Bertsch and Daly are the 2013-14 All-Empire large school girls basketball players of the year.

“Without either one, they don’t have the complete team they had this year,” one opposing coach said. “It’s a balancing act between both of them, and they allowed other players to get involved, too.”

Daly’s performance was hardly a surprise. She was our player of the year as a junior, too, and is a four-year varsity starter at Santa Rosa. There isn’t much left to say about her at this point. A classic “1 guard,” Daly can do it all — handle the ball, pass, drive, shoot and play lock-down defense.

“Katie has the ball at the half-court line, and she will make a two-handed chest pass to the net,” Casa Grande coach Dan Sack said. “We have no one to defend it. And if you stop it, if you collapse inside, she’ll take the shot.”

The word most often used to describe Daly’s play is “creativity.” She anticipates her teammates’ movements and sees the court like few high school players do.

If we all had begun to take Daly for granted, it was a concussion that snapped us back to reality. She hit her head in a North Coast Section Division 1 quarterfinal game against Foothill and missed the next game, at Berkeley High. The Panthers were better inside than the Yellowjackets, but without Daly they had tremendous difficulty getting the ball to Bertsch and forward Devin Murray. Without Daly’s ball handling, Santa Rosa committed 29 turnovers that night. Without her defense, speedy Berkeley point guard Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman dominated at both ends of the court.

Quite simply, the Panthers were a different, diminished team without their leader.

And yet it was Bertsch who carried them for much of the season. Always a good rebounder at 6-foot-4, and a capable scorer on tip-ins and put-backs, she developed a shooting touch and added some defensive toughness this season, evolving into a nearly unstoppable center.

By season’s end, Bertsch had established school single-season records for points (536), rebounds (336) and blocked shots (139).

“Last year, she had no problem dominating weaker teams,” Santa Rosa coach Steve Chisholm said. “This year, she strengthened her game against top-level teams, scoring 23, 25 points against very good teams. And her real impact was on the defensive end. Very few post players had good games against our team, and in large part that was because of Morgan’s type of defense.”

In Santa Rosa’s 67-44 win against North Salinas in the NorCal opening round, Bertsch tallied 27 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Three days later, as the Panthers were eliminated by a very good Deer Valley team, she tallied 18 points, nine boards and seven blocks.

Bertsch will play at UC Davis next year. Daly will attend Chico State, and is deciding whether to walk on to the basketball team there. Both will be sorely missed by Chisholm and his reloading team.

Phil Barber can be reached at



Morgan Bertsch, Santa Rosa, senior, and Katie Daly, Santa Rosa, senior

Kylie Kiech, Cardinal Newman, junior
Devin Murray, Santa Rosa, junior
Kerianne Noonan, Windsor, senior
Tiffany Salinas, Cardinal Newman, sophomore
Brooke Santander, Casa Grande, senior

Jessica Barbosa, Windsor, junior
Joelle Krist, Petaluma, junior
Madison Nordby, Montgomery, senior
Jenna Petray, Analy, junior
Allison Scranton, Petaluma, junior

Jessie Davidson, Analy, senior
Kylie Oden, Santa Rosa, junior
Niambi Saint Louis, Montgomery, senior
Delaney Swanson, Sonoma, junior
Hailey Vice-Neat, Cardinal Newman, freshman

Monica Mertle, Cardinal Newman


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