Prep basketball roundup: Rancho Cotate girls rally for victory over Healdsburg

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The Healdsburg High girls basketball team was bit by a fourth-quarter bug once again.

The latest struck on Thursday night, as the Greyhounds held a lead over Rancho Cotate at the end of three quarters, only to see it vanish at the final horn — falling to the Cougars 62-56 in Healdsburg on Thursday night.

Healdsburg coach Steve Zichichi said the Greyhounds (17-7, 3-5) fell victim again to a lack of depth, as the energy that had been present the first three periods fell away as the clocked ticked away in the fourth quarter of the North Bay League-Redwood contest. Healdsburg lost to Maria Carrillo, 52-51, on a last-second shot last Thursday.

“We really had that team on the ropes until the last three minutes of the game,” Zichichi said. “If we finish a little better, we beat them.”

That’s when Rancho coach Mario Newton said the Cougars (12-8, 8-0) clamped down with their full-court defense, forcing Healdsburg to play sloppy, and it played into Keyonee Neal’s hands, quite literally.

Neal, Rancho’s star sophomore shooting guard, picked apart the Greyhounds’ defense with 10 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 19 total and adding 13 rebounds and seven steals.

Newton credited Neal with putting together transition points that turned a 6-point deficit at the end of three quarters to a 6-point win. That, and his team’s depth vs. Healdsburg’s lack thereof.

Healdsburg had played through Rancho’s press so well early in the contest that Newton said five of his athletes had three or four fouls each in the first half.

“Rancho played a full-court press and we kept beating it,” Zichichi said.

And then along with the fouls came free throws, and the Greyhounds hit 12 of 15 of those in the first half.

Newton pointed out to his team at some point during the hot streak: “I was telling my girls, ‘Look, free throws win games.’”

The Cougars settled down and made the focus of their defensive efforts Healdsburg point guard Hannah Webb, who finished with 12 points but fouled out in the fourth.

“We didn’t want Hannah Webb to score in the fourth quarter, and we held her to 2,” Newton said of the defending NBL-Redwood MVP.

Healdsburg’s Itzel Ortiz led all scorers with 21 points. Aleah Molina notched 13, including 12 in the first half.

The Greyhounds host El Molino on senior night Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. while Rancho will play at Maria Carrillo in what Newton calls the “contest of the year” at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Casa Grande 51, Napa 29

At Napa, the Gauchos ballooned a 4-point lead after one quarter into 13 at the half and more than 20 at the final horn.

Casa Grande (12-8, 8-0 Vine Valley Athletic League) had three girls sink three 3-pointers, starting with leading scorer Ashley Harris, who finished with 10 points. Ashley Casper and Emma Resse were the others and each had 9 points.

The Gauchos host American Canyon on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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