The Rancho Cotate Cougars drove off the Healdsburg Greyhounds 71-40 and continued their winning streak last Thurs., remaining undefeated in the league.
The undefeated tag doesn’t come easy. It takes victory in ten total matches against opponents carted in from all across the tri-county area. But it’s a title the Cougars earned-so far—through sweat and toil and with league and the basketball season set to end with Jan., their record positions the team perfectly to sweep the playoffs.
“Right now the girls are playing good. We have to keep playing good,” Cougar coach, Mario Newton, said. “I told them they can’t play down to the competition. They’re playing against each other. If they don’t perform then they come off.”
Right from the tip off the Cougars displayed their characteristic aggression. They seized an early lead in the first half when Makenna Menton-Porter snagged the rebound off a missed Greyhound shot. The Greyhounds fell back, but Porter wasn’t inclined to wait around for them. She hurled the thing overhand like a baseball up the court. It bounced once and came to rest in the waiting fingers of Cougar Katie Schiebold.
The Greyhounds swarmed to cover Schiebold, but she slipped between them like they weren’t even there. She fired off a shot from the three-point line. It arced perfectly and fell through the basket, cinching the Cougars’ lead.
But it wasn’t the offense that earned the Cougars their victory, but their defense—catching the rebounds, stopping the shots, and most importantly: stealing the ball.
It all started after the Greyhounds regrouped from a successful Cougar drive. The difference between the Cougars and most teams is that the Cougars play a more aggressive defense. A lot of teams, especially the slower ones, fall back to the hoop after they land a shot to arrange themselves in optimal position, but the Cougars?
Well, the Cougars contest every step.
In this instance they left back Jessica Phillips. Phillips pressed her opponent as she pushed up. When the Greyhound tried to pass, Phillips smacked the ball right out of her hand. It rolled across the court.
The ball almost managed to work its way out of bounds, but Phillips got there first. She scooped it up and moved in for an unopposed layup.
“When we played this team at their home court last time we had a rough start in the first half. Today we definitely brought our ‘A’ game,” Phillips said. “They were definitely easier to beat this time because we knew what to expect and we cleaned up some of our mistakes.”
But Phillips wasn’t the only Cougar partaking in a bit of theft.
Cougar Teiya Fronda snatched the ball out of the air after the Greyhounds sent a pass careening a little too close. The Cougars surged forward.
Fronda ducked and weaved between the two Greyhound defenders that moved to cover her. Not seeing anyone open, she launched a shot at the three-point line, but it tilted to one side, bouncing off the rim. Cougar Christine Pagaduan leapt to recover. She wrenched the ball out of the hands of three Greyhound defenders and passed it back.
Now uncovered, Fronda took her shot. This one landed.
The Greyhounds managed a couple of successful drives but couldn’t quite match the Cougars’ sheer physicality. According to their coach, Steve Zichichi, his team is young and small and their small bench made competing against the Cougars difficult.
“They’re definitely the crème of the league. We played them once before and kept them within fifteen, but today they came out with a purpose,” Greyhounds coach, Steve Zichichi, said. “We’re really thin right now. We’ve only have seven players. But my girls fought hard. They didn’t give up.”
The end of Jan. also marks the end of the Cougars’ basketball season. Placement for the playoffs will be announced in early Feb.