Expect Rancho Cotate’s boys basketball team to be much improved over last year’s squad, which failed to win a game. New coach Adam Green has welcomed back seven players who were on varsity last year.

Included in that group are Gunner Mefferd and Garrett Lieberman. The two practiced for the first time Monday following the football team’s loss last Friday to Analy in the NCS playoffs. Also on the team is tennis player Alec Wong. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the Empire.

More new faces

There are two first-year boys varsity coaches in Petaluma. Scott Behrs has taken over for his father as the Trojans head man while Jake Lee was hired for the job at Casa Grande following the death of James Forni.

Behrs had been either the assistant or junior varsity coach for six years before taking over for his father, John. The elder Behrs will be an assistant this season.

Lee, who played point guard for the Gauchos and graduated in 2007, had been the freshman coach the past two years

Young and fast

Worth noting from Saturday’s CIF state cross country championship meet in Fresno is that three of the five fastest times clocked by Redwood Empire girls were by underclassmen. In fact, two sophomore and a freshman.

Led by Sonoma Academy’s Rylee Bowen’s first-place finish in Division 5 (56th in the overall girls standings of 997 girls), promise of more to come was delivered by Sonoma Academy sophomore Amy Stanfield (215th overall) and Piner freshman Cynthia Rosales (224th).

Santa Rosa’s Delaney White had the 29th-best overall time to lead Redwood Empire girls and Casa Grande’s Adria Barich had the 77th-best.

Top boys finishers

The top five overall finishers among Redwood Empire at the state meet in Fresno were El Molino junior Brian Schulz (64th), Santa Rosa junior Daniel Pride (120th), Maria Carrillo senior Carson Kimball (165th), Sonoma Valley senior Travis Claeys (269th) and Maria Carrillo senior Jordan Scobey (306th).

The juggling game

Cardinal Newman fans faced an unenviable choice Saturday — watch their girls basketball tournament championship game or drive to Rohnert Park to see the Cardinals play in the North Coast Section Division 4 football championship game.

But luckily, coach Monica Mertle realized the dilemma and was able to juggle the basketball game schedule.

All four games on Saturday were moved up three hours, beginning at noon and culminating with the 4:30 p.m. championship game, leaving plenty of time to catch both.

The boys, No. 2 in division, face top-seeded Marin Catholic at Rancho Cotate High School at 7 p.m. Also, the Cardinal Newman Classic will be broadcast live on YSN365.com. Mertle said the quality of teams in the tourney attracts college coaches looking to recruit.

Healdsburg openings

Healdsburg High is looking for coaches to take over the head track and field spot, as well as boys’ tennis. Both sports play in spring. Contact athletic director Rob Lee, at 431-3420 or rlee@husd.com.

Kerry Benefield, Lori A. Carter and Howard Senzell contributed to this report.