Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 1, 2013

Five teams, four titles at stake

Gunn girls, Pinewood boys take shots at defending their section championships

by Tom Jacoubowsky and Andrew Preimesberger

Two days. Five local teams. Four Central Coast Section basketball titles on the line. Who wins will be determined by the Gunn, Menlo School, Sacred Heart Prep girls and the Menlo and Pinewood boys.

Three of the championships will be decided Friday night. First up will be the Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep girls in the Division IV finale at Foothill College at 5:30 p.m.

Following that will be the Menlo boys against Half Moon Bay in the Division IV title game, also at Foothill, at 8 p.m. Pinewood, meanwhile, will go after the Division V crown against Alma Heights at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont at 8 p.m.

On Saturday, the Gunn girls will defend their Division I title against San Benito at Santa Clara High at 1 p.m.

After waiting 32 years for its first visit to the CCS finals, Gunn is making a habit of it as the Titans advanced to the finals with an easy 42-18 win over Piedmont Hills on Wednesday night at Santa Teresa in San Jose.

By reaching the finals for a fourth time in five years, Gunn is the first public school girls' team to accomplish this feat since Monta Vista went seven years in a row from 1991-1997.

Using a pressure defense that limited Piedmont Hills to very few uncontested shots, the top-seeded Titans (18-6) survived a slow start to overwhelm the Pirates and move on to the finale against No. 6 San Benito (16-11).

"Our defense came through," said Gunn head coach Sarah Stapp. "We had a tough time offensive early, but then it began to click."

And click it did as the Titans found themselves down 6-4 late in the first, only to then go on a 22-4 run that put the game away.

Two baskets by Zoe Zwerling, one at the end of the first on a nice drive to the hoop and one at the beginning of the second, put Gunn up 8-6 and then Oliva Tapia, one of the most dangerous marksmen from long range, hit the first of her three-pointers to put Gunn up 11-6 and the Pirates never challenged the rest of the way.

Gunn stretched the lead to 23-10 at half and then continued the onslaught as a three pointer by Claire Klausner stretched the score to 28-10 and Gunn ended the third with a 32-12 lead as Piedmont Hills could only muster two points in the period and the game was effectively over.

With the score 32-15 early in the fourth, the Titans went on a 10-0 run with Tapia draining her third three-pointer of the night.

Zwerling led all scorers with 12 points, followed by 11 from Tapia, seven from Klausner, six from Meghan Mahoney and two apiece from Sarah Klem, Emily Redfield and Sarah Longyear.

the defending champion Titans will take on a San Benito team that defeated No. 7 Evergreen Valley, 58-38, in the other semifinal game.

Two years ago the Titans defeated San Benito, 50-26, in the Division I quarterfinals, but Stapp is not drawing any comparisons from that game.

"That game is ancient history and we have to be ready" said Stapp, who watched San Benito easily handle Evergreen Valley. "San Benito is a tough team and I know they'll be ready for us."

Division IV girls

The Menlo-SHP girls' matchup, meanwhile, will be an intriguing one.

Sparked by a buzzer-beating three-pointer just before halftime by guard Lauren Lete, Menlo topped Scotts Valley, 58-46, in the semifinals Tuesday at Notre Dame-Belmont.

The No. 2-seeded Knights improved to 19-9 on the season while earning their first trip to the CCS title game since 2002, when they lost to Sacred Heart Prep, 28-24.

Menlo now has a chance to avenge that title-game loss — 11 years later — against No. 5 Sacred Heart Prep (21-8), which upset No. 1 Soquel, 55-52, in the other semifinal.

"We know they're an excellent outside shooting team, so we're going to focus on stopping their outside game," said Menlo head coach John Paye of SHP.

The Knights started strong in the first quarter with a 15-6 run led by senior center Drew Edelman, who scored nine of the 15. The 6-foot-4, USC-bound Edelman had 16 points in the first quarter. She leads the Knights with 20 points and 12.6 rebound per game.

Edelman sank 10 field goals and had 22 points in the first half alone. Menlo's Lete drained a key 30-footer as time expired in the second quarter, giving the Knights a 33-19 advantage at the end of the first half.

"She's done that so many times," said Edelman. "In three games last year she made halfcourt shots like that — it was ridiculous."

Third-seeded Scotts Valley (17-11) came out strong in the fourth quarter, knocking down a trio of three-pointers in the first two minutes of the quarter. The Falcons went on a 9-2 run at the end, but the Knights' offense and Edelman were too tough as they held on for the victory. Edelman finished with a season-high 30 points and 22 rebounds. Junior Maddy Price added 16 points.

"We have an opportunity to do something that hasn't happened in a while," said Paye. "We have a history of championships at Menlo. It would be really nice for this team show up at the end and win the CCS title."

Menlo and SHP split their regular-season matches in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) season, with the Knights winning the second meeting.

The Knights and Gators have met six times in the CCS finals, the last two in Division IV. SHP holds a 4-2 edge in the series, but both of Menlo's wins have come under the guidance of Paye (1990 and '91).

SHP coach Ann Tafolla will be making her first appearance in the finals while her Gators are returning to the title game for the first time since 2007.

SHP never trailed against Soquel and held a 35-25 halftime lead, even though the Gators' advantage dwindled to 38-37 late in the third quarter.

Sacred Heart Prep cashed in at the free-throw line down the stretch, finishing 13 of 20. Still, the Gators had to withstand a last-gasp three-point attempt by Soquel that missed with under 10 seconds to play.

Senior Helen Gannon led SHP with 14 points with junior Meghan Holland adding 12.

Division IV boys

Menlo employed a balanced attack and knocked off No. 2-seeded Palma, 64-53, to earn a trip to the CCS championship game. The No. 3-seeded Knights (19-7) will play No. 4 Half Moon Bay (22-6), which upset No. 1 Seaside (20-4) in the earlier semifinal, 46-39. This will be Menlo's first CCS final since it won in 2009. The Knights will be seeking the seventh section title in program history.

Menlo displayed another show of balanced scoring with junior Jack Heneghan leading the way with 15 points. Fellow juniors Bobby Roth scored 13 and Ryan Young contributed 12 while sophomore Liam Dunn added 11.

Menlo used its signature third-quarter run, outpacing the Chieftains with a 20-8 run. The Knights closed in on a halftime deficit of three when they went on a 13-4 run in the opening minutes of the second half capped by Peter Bouret's driving layup for a 39-33 lead.

"We woke up in the third quarter," Menlo coach Delandro Leday said. "We started taking care of the ball well; we had some lazy passes, and we needed to have three solid possessions.

"We don't just have one kid, we have several guys who can play as well as long as we make sure we're defending and taking care of the ball -- they did that tonight."

Palma got as close as six in the fourth quarter, but Menlo had the game well in hand by then and after postgame handshakes, the team melted in with the Sea of Gold and well-wishers in a celebratory huddle.

Palma got most of its points (19) from Jacob Taylor and 17 from UCLA-bound Noah Allen, but showed that spreading out the offense works quite well.

Menlo fell behind by six in the first quarter until Wes Miller's basket and Liam Dunn's three closed the gap to 1 at the end of the first. Dunn added another three to open the second quarter, but Palma held a halftime lead 31-29.

Division V boys

Two-time defending champion Pinewood reached its fourth straight title game with a 62-42 romp over No. 3 seed St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic at Alma Heights in Pacifica on Tuesday. The No. 2-seeded Panthers will face No. 1 Alma Heights (26-3) in the finals.

Junior guard Greg Naumann tallied 22 points for Pinewood in a game that was a rematch of last season's CCS finale. A 23-3 advantage in the third quarter made the difference for the Panthers.

In the other semifinal, No. 4 Eastside Prep (15-13) fell to Alma Heights, 32-28. Johnnie Walton led the Panthers with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Dae-Von Bishop added eight points and 10 boards.

Open Division boys

Palo Alto saw its brief stay in the division playoffs come to an end following a 47-46 loss to No. 8 seed Soquel (21-7) on Tuesday night at Independence High in San Jose. Seniors Aldis Petriceks and Aubrey Dawkins led Paly with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Dawkins missed a shot on an inbounds play with under five seconds to play, which would have given the Vikings the win.

Paly played without junior center Keller Chryst, who suffered an ankle injury in an opening-round loss to Mitty. He'll miss the rest of the postseason. The No. 5-seeded Vikings were outscored in the second quarter, 11-4.

Palo Alto (23-3), which has lost back-to-back games in the postseason following a 21-game win streak to end the regular season, next will compete in the CIF NorCal playoffs that begin next week. All the teams that played in the new Open Division this year qualified for NorCals.

Open Division girls

Eastside Prep and Pinewood, who normally battle for section honors in Division V, both saw their CCS seasons end following second-round, consolation-bracket losses on Tuesday.

Fourth-seeded Eastside Prep (21-8) fell to top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral, 46-44, and No. 7 Pinewood (20-8) dropped a 50-42 decision to No. 3 St. Ignatius.

Both teams, however, will compete in next week's CIF NorCal playoffs as all eight teams in the Open Division qualified.

Pinewood was tied with SI at 16 in the second quarter before the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run to take the halftime lead at 26-16. The Panthers got to within 43-37 following a three-pointer by Marissa Hing in the fourth quarter.

Pinewood, however, was forced to foul to get the ball back and SI cashed in -- pulling away to a 49-37 advantage in the waning moments.

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