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ALBANY — Hamstrung by early foul trouble, Cardinal Newman’s girls basketball team could not keep pace with a powerful Salesian College Prep squad that pressured, ran and attacked for 32 minutes Saturday night. The No. 2 seed Cardinals were dropped 64-47 by the top-ranked Salesian squad in a North Coast Section Div. 4 championship game that was never close.

“We got in early foul trouble and that put us in a bad spot,” Cardinal Newman head coach Monica Mertle said.

Cardinal Newman was down 21-11 after the first quarter and 37-23 at intermission.

At the 4:32 mark of the first quarter, 6-foot-3 junior Hailey Vice-Neat got her second foul and took a seat on the bench. And with her went one of the matchup problems Salesian head coach Stephen Pezzola expressed worry about before the game.

Without Vice-Neat threatening to shoot a three or banging bodies under the basket, Salesian went to work.

And the work was largely behind the superb play of Pride guard Minyon Moore. The Cardinals had no answer for the USC-bound senior. To be fair, the Golden State Warriors probably would not have had an answer for the relentless Moore.

She poured in 31 of her team’s 64 points but had a hand in nearly every offensive and defensive play.

“Having determined seniors — the sense that I got from them is they weren’t going to let them lose and I respect that,” Mertle said.

Fellow Pride senior Jordan Hobson added 12 points. But the Pride also got a big night from freshman 6-foot-5 center Angel Jackson, who added 10 points and generally made life miserable underneath for the Cardinals’ own 6-foot-5 center Lauren Walker.

Walker got her third foul halfway through the third quarter and eventually fouled out of the contest for the first time this season without scoring a point. She came into Saturday night’s game averaging 10 points and eight rebounds a game.

“It was more of a guard game after the bigs got into trouble,” sophomore guard Maiya Flores said.

“On some occasions, you were looking for Lauren and you were looking for Chief,” freshman point guard Avery Cargill said of Walker and Vice-Neat.

So instead, Cargill looked for the basket — and usually found it.

Even while tasked with marking Moore for a good portion of the game, Cargill still managed to shine on offense. Cargill led Newman with 15 points and created still more opportunities with her penetration.

“Monica helped prepare us; it was nothing we didn’t expect,” she said of Salesian’s full-court pressure. “It was tough, but I think as a team we handled it.”

Flores, who put up nine points, was two points below her game average against Salesian’s nearly hyperactive defense. Salesian put full-court pressure on Cardinals after every bucket and picked up man to man on every change of possession.

Every Salesian player saw action Saturday night — they just kept reloading.

“It was really hard. You really realize how good you have to have your ball handling,” Flores said.

Cardinal Newman has felt the sting of perennial powerhouse Salesian before.

It was Salesian that ended Cardinal Newman’s NCS playoff run last year, too. The Cardinals were ousted in the semifinals by the Pride last year.

“Salesian is probably one of the best teams we are going to play,” Mertle said. “At this point, it doesn’t do any good to pout about it.”

Pouting is out, regrouping is in. After all, the Cardinals live to play another day. By virtue of making it into the semifinal round of the North Coast Section tournament, they earn a bid into the Div. 4 NorCal tournament. Seeds are scheduled to be determined Sunday.

Newman, the two-time North Bay League champion that hasn’t dropped a league contest in two seasons, is not expected to see Salesian again. The basketball powerhouse from Richmond will likely get invited to compete in the Open Division, where the best of the best compete.

Cargill, who called the defeat a “bump in the road,” insisted Saturday that the road for the Cardinals may still lead to a Division 4 state championship.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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