With both teams averaging 64 points per game, Saturday's girls state basketball quarterfinal at Cardinal Newman may be a high-scoring affair.
The top-seeded Cardinals, 27-5 and ranked 30th in the state, welcome Scotts Valley from the hills northeast of Santa Cruz. The No. 8 Falcons are 24-5 this season after finishing 12-0 in their league and are ranked 98th in the state.
Tipoff is 6 p.m. at Cardinal Newman.
It’s also the third game in three years for the two teams, with each winning one.
“We are ready to go,” said Newman coach Monica Mertle. “We had a great practice yesterday and are ready to get back on the court.”
Saturday's winner advances to the NorCal regional semifinals Tuesday night against either No. 4 Sacred Heart Prep or No. 12 Central Valley.
The Cardinals received a bye in the first round after being seeded No. 1 when Salesian Prep was chosen to play in the open division. Newman lost to Salesian on Saturday in the North Coast Section Division 4 championship.
A win would equal the Cardinals’ most successful run in the history of girls sports at Newman, after the private Santa Rosa Catholic school absorbed the Ursuline girls five years ago.
The Falcons have advanced to the state semifinals the past two years.
But they had to ramp it up a notch in the second half of their first-round game to get past No. 9 Venture. Ultimately, the score looked like a blowout — 70-57 — but Scotts Valley didn’t take the lead until late in the third quarter. The Falcons took control on a 17-4 run and outscored Venture 48-32 in the second half to win.
Newman will, again, field a taller team, with Lauren Walker and Hailey Vice-Neat both north of 6 feet tall.
The pair contribute about 21 points and 14 rebounds a game for the Cardinals. Guards Maiya Flores (11) Avery Cargill (11) and Tal Webb (8) balance out the scoring attack.
Scotts Valley may try to take a page from Salesian’s playbook and force Newman’s big girls into foul trouble.
That took 6-foot-3 junior Vice-Neat out of that game early, when she picked up her second foul halfway through the first quarter. Walker was whistled for her third foul halfway through the third quarter and eventually fouled out for the first time this season without scoring a point.
“We learned a lot from that game,” Mertle said. “One of the things we discussed this week was the importance of staying out of foul trouble. We can’t dig ourselves a hole.”
While Scotts Valley doesn’t have a big post player to challenge Walker or Vice-Neat, they do have a triple threat in Nikiya Bechtle.
Scotts Valley’s 5-7 senior point guard leads the Falcons with 18 points a game.
“She can do a little bit of everything,” Mertle said. “She is a shooter, she can attack the basket and she is the heart and soul of their team.”
Sam Boyle, a 5-11 junior wing, leads the Falcons with 9 rebounds a game, in addition to averaging 15 points. Senior guard Grace Giguiere adds 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Mertle called Scotts Valley “gritty” and “tough” and said the seniors provided “inspired leadership” in the win against Venture.