Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 7, 2014

Now it's a real race for first

Pinewood boys' OT win over SHP makes WBAL a three-team race

by Andrew Preimesberger

So, whose turn is it to be the champion of the West Bay Athletic League boys' basketball race? Menlo School, Pinewood and Sacred Heart Prep have all claimed that crown over the past three seasons.

In terms of being away from the top spot, it would be logical for SHP to reclaim the honor. Yet, the Gators let a chance at a two-game lead slip away in a 60-58 overtime loss to visiting Pinewood on Tuesday night.

The win by the Panthers moved them into a tie for first place, while Menlo School is just a game back with five games remaining for each contender. Things are just getting interesting, as they were Tuesday night in the second showdown this season between Pinewood and Sacred Heart.

The first game ended in a four-point win for the Gators. This week, it was the Panthers' turn.

Pinewood sophomore Aidan Lucero nailed the game winning three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime as Pinewood knocked off its rival.

The Gators fell to 8-1 (13-6 overall) while Pinewood improved to 8-1 (16-3 overall). Both teams are now in a tie for first place in the division. With Menlo's 58-43 win over Priory on Tuesday night, the defending champion Knights are now knocking on the door.

"Now that we're tied with Pinewood it brings the league and everyone together a little more," said Sacred Heart head coach Tony Martinelli. "Pinewood is a good enough team to possibly run the table. We have to control what we can control and that's winning our games; we can't lose ground."

The Panthers got off to a hot start and went on a 9-2 run. Sophomore guard Nathan Beak led the run with seven points. Sacred Heart started out cold in the first quarter shooting only 2-for-12 from the field with just five total points.

The Gators took their first lead in the second quarter when junior guard James McLean hit a 3-pointer, giving his team the 25-24 edge nearing the end of the first half.

The Panthers went on a 13-2 run in the third quarter led by junior David Bodine. Pinewood regained the lead in the third quarter when sophomore Roshan Bal stepped off the bench and drilled a 3-pointer, giving the Panthers the 33-32 advantage.

In the fourth quarter with the Gators up 52-51, SHP junior forward Corbin Koch grabbed a defensive rebound and got fouled with 1.6 seconds left. While walking to the free throw line, Koch slammed the ball on the ground and was called for a technical foul giving Pinewood two free throws.

First, Koch took his two attempts. Had he made both, the game was over. But, he missed the first before making the second for a 53-51 lead. Beak then stepped to the line and made both technicals to make it a 53-53 game and force overtime.

"I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous," said Beak, who finished with 13 points. "I had to make them for my team. After all the effort they put in tonight I couldn't let them down — it was a great feeling."

With the Gators down 57-55, McLean came through and nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to give Sacred Heart a 58-57 lead with seven seconds left in overtime. He finished with a season-high 21 points.

With only seven seconds left on the clock and no timeouts left, the Panthers threw the ball down the court and found Lucero 25 feet away from the basket. He drained a 3-pointer, beating the buzzer for the win.

"I don't know how else to explain it besides overly joyous," said Lucero. "It was amazing."

"Credit to them for getting the ball up the floor and getting it to a good shooter," said Martinelli. "On our end we just have to learn from it and move ahead."

The Gators visit Menlo on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) while Pinewood visits Eastside Prep at 5 p.m.

"We don't want to lose two games in a week so it really heightens things," said Martinelli. "We wanted this one and we didn't get it. We have to prepare for Menlo."

Just up the street, the host Knights (7-2, 8-11) pulled away after a slow start to beat visiting Priory (3-6, 11-7). Ryan Young led the way with 12 points with Wes Miller and Bobby Roth adding 10 each.

Menlo held only an 8-4 lead after the opening period — turning the ball over 10 times — before opening an 11-point halftime lead. Young added 10 rebounds while Liam Dunn contributed eight points and seven boards to keep the Knights in position to challenge for a possible co-title.

Priory senior Connor Bonfiglio had a game-high 19 points as he made 11 of 12 free throws. Scott Harris added 14 points for Priory, which missed all 12 of its 3-point attempts.

In San Jose, Eastside Prep (2-7, 9-10) scored a season-low 20 points while falling to host Harker, 51-20.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto moved to within two games of first place by upsetting first-place Los Altos, 55-51, on Wednesday night. The host Vikings moved to 5-3 in league (11-9 overall) while handing the Eagles (6-1, 14-6) their first division loss.

Paly had to rally from a 39-33 deficit in the third quarter after Los Altos went on a 9-0 run. A layup by Paly senior Noah Phillips with less than four minutes to play gave the Vikings the lead for good. Phillips finished with 16 points while junior Kevin Mullin led the way with 17.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division, junior Chris Russell scored 19 points but Gunn fell apart defensively while dropping an 86-67 decision to host Santa Clara. The Bruins scored 55 second-half points while pulling away and dropping Gunn to 3-4 in league (11-9 overall). Patrick Skelly and Alex Gil-Fernandez added 15 and 14 points, respectively, to the Gunn effort.

The San Mateo at Menlo-Atherton game in PAL South Division action was not reported.

Girls basketball

Menlo-Atherton continued its solid season by defeating host San Mateo, 50-30, in PAL South Division action Wednesday. The Bears (7-2, 17-6) came up with a solid defense that stifled the Bearcats all night.

M-A, however, had trouble on the offensive end and was tied after the opening quarter at 8. As the game progressed the Bears' shooting improved, particularly in the third quarter when freshman Ilana Baer scored six of her eight points on the night.

The Bears were led by sophomore post Sally Carlson, who scored 12, and senior captain Emma Heath, who had nine. The Bears now have a five-game winning streak in the PAL South.

In the WBAL Foothill Division, Pinewood won its 10th straight game and maintained its one-game lead in the race with a 69-43 drubbing of host Sacred Heart Prep on Tuesday.

Despite the easy win, the Panthers (7-0, 20-1) still missed 12 of 14 finishes at the rim and made only four of 25 three-point attempts. Senior Monique McDevitt scored 12 points to lead a balanced attack that saw 12 Pinewood players score. The Panthers used a solid defensive effort in the second quarter, holding the Gators (3-4, 12-9) to just five points, while grabbing a 35-20 halftime lead.

Pinewood will put its first-place mark on the line Friday when it visits second-place Eastside Prep at 6:30 p.m.

The Eastside Prep at Notre Dame-San Jose game was not reported.

In Atherton, Menlo School built a seven-point lead at halftime, but Mercy-San Francisco scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull out a 38-31 victory. Menlo (3-4, 12-9) was led in scoring by sophomore Hannah Paye with 14 points. Sarah Rantz led the team in rebounding with eight.

In the WBAL Skyline Division, Castilleja improved to 6-0 in the division and remained in first place with a 48-31 home win over Mercy-Burlingame on Tuesday night. Yasmeen Afifi scored six first-quarter points and Paige Vermeer and Cate Alder each sank a pair of first half 3's, but the Crusaders were within 21-17 at halftime.

The Gators (11-8 overall) attacked the Mercy zone and were rewarded with 11 free throws in the third quarter, as Vermeer, Afifi and Maddie Tarr totaled nine points at the line. Ellie Chen, who was saddled with three first-half fouls, scored 11 points in the fourth quarter and Castilleja's defense did the rest.

Vermeer, who dished out her 200th career assist, finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, and five steals. Chen had 13 points and four assists, Afifi finished with 11 points plus nine rebounds and nine blocks, and Tarr grabbed nine boards.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn moved to 5-3 in the league (6-5 overall) with a 51-28 drubbing of visiting Milpitas. Gunn's Camille Steger led all scorers with 17. The Titans play a crucial league game at Lynbrook on Friday and then host Paly next Tuesday.

Palo Alto (3-5, 9-10) had its two-game win streak snapped with a 42-30 loss to visiting Lynbrook. Freshman Lauren Koyama paced Paly with 16 points.

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