By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When your team’s bus gets lost on the way to a host’s gym, you know it’s not your night.
Such was the case for the visiting Athenian (2-5) girls’ basketball team from Danville, which fell, 39-29, to host Sonoma Academy (5-1) on Friday night in a nonleague matchup.
The game started 25 minutes late due to the Owls’ bus driver accidently taking the circuitous route from the East Bay through San Francisco. After finally arriving, Athenian (2-5) rushed its warm-ups while Sonoma Academy had an extended warm-up period during its wait for its tardy opponent.
“When you have to come off the bus and (immediately) play a game, it’s never helpful,” Sonoma Academy coach Kevin Christensen said.
Athenian’s coach Dani Oswood did not use her team’s late arrival fiasco as an excuse.
“Sonoma Academy is a better team than us, that was the difference,” Oswood said.
“They shot the three-ball nicely.”
Indeed, the Coyotes held a 7-0 advantage in 3-point buckets, a 21-point difference that was too much for the Owls to overcome.
“We made some shots,” Christensen said. “We hit clutch threes and that was the separation in the game.”
Willow Gallagher (15 points), Sonoma Academy’s leading scorer for the season, sunk three 3-pointers.
“Willow is playing great this season,” Christensen said. “We’ve also had different girls stepping up in games.”
The Coyotes got large scoring contributions from Kiana Herold and Savannah Stoughton, each with nine points. Sonoma Academy had only seven players against the Owls due to the temporary loss of starting point guard Chloe Colbert (wisdom teeth) and the extended loss of Lucy Donaldson (knee injury earlier in the season).
Athenian was paced by Grace Reckers (16 points), who led all scorers.
The Owls had an advantage inside with two sizeable post players in Paige Thompson and Acaciah Glaze. However, Athenian wasn’t able to cash in on its inside power due in large part to the Coyotes’ active defense that denied the Owls viable passing lanes.
“Our guards were unable to handle the ball to get it into our post players,” Oswood said.
In the first quarter, Thompson was doing some damage against the Coyotes’ zone defense before Christensen made an adjustment.
“We started in zone and then went to man defense, and Tori (Gimpel, Coyote post player) neutralized her (Thompson).”
Despite Athenian leading 6-4 at the end of the first quarter, it was just a matter of time before Sonoma Academy’s superior guard play would pay dividends. The Coyotes’ guards caused a litany of Athenian turnovers and converted them to fast-break buckets.
“I think our defensive pressure got to them,” Christensen said. “Our guard play was the difference. We were a little more athletic than them.”
The Coyotes outscored the Owls, 13-7, in the second quarter to lead 17-13 at halftime. Sonoma Academy extended its lead to 28-19 with an 11-4 run to end the third quarter. The Owls did not have the offensive firepower to cut into the Coyotes’ lead in the fourth quarter.
“Sonoma Academy plays good defense and works hard on both ends of the court,” Oswood said.
Christensen credited his team’s 26-point loss to Cardinal Newman last Wednesday as a catalyst for the Coyotes improved play against the Owls.
“We learned more from that loss than in any other game this season,” Christensen said.