With four starters having graduated off last season’s team that advanced to the Northern California Division I finals, it’s an all new reality for the Menlo-Atherton boys basketball team.
Eric Norton, the one returning starter, is in a new role this season as a leader and the voice of experience. The Peninsula Athletic League South Division MVP as a junior, Norton scored 21 points Wednesday to lead the Bears to a 58-39 win over Sacred Heart Prep.
Sacred Heart Prep had a 17-16 lead in the second quarter when M-A (4-3) went on a 10-0 run to close the half with a 26-17 lead. Norton started the run by making two free throws.
Will Perrone and Will Beasley scored and then Norton closed out the run with a fastbreak basket and another pair of free throws.
The closest the Gators got in the second half was within seven points at 35-28.
“We have a new team,’’ M-A coach Mike Molieri said. “We’re young. That was a great run last year. Now we’re just starting to get better each game. We played more aggressively in the second half.’’
Tevin Panchal was a one-man gang for Sacred Heart Prep. He scored 25 points, going 8-of-8 at the foul line and making three 3-pointers.
“You can’t be that way,’’ SHP coach Tony Martinelli said. “When we’ve been good in the past we had all five guys rolling.’’
Eric DeBrine, a 6-foot-6 junior, went into the game averaging 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds. M-A, with Raymond Fowler doing the bulk of the defensive work, limited him to seven points.
“They have two guys who can score,’’ Molieri said. “Our goal was to take away one of them. We didn’t think the other guy was going to score 40.’’
Sacred Heart Prep dropped to 1-4 with the loss.
“I told the guys in the locker room that it’s OK to say we’re not very good right now,’’ Martinelli said. “But it’s not all right to accept it. There are some guys in their with good character and they are going to work to get better.’’
Prior to the game, SHP athletic director Frank Rodriguez addressed the crowd and asked for a moment of silence for Aisea Mataele, a player in the Menlo-Atherton football and basketball programs who died this week after suffering a severe bacterial infection.
Rodriguez made the point that Mataele’s passing was a loss for the community, not just for Menlo-Atherton.
Menlo vs. Woodside
Before departing for Orange County, the Knights picked up a dominating, 57-38, nonleague victory over Woodside at home Wednesday.
Junior Riley Woodson controlled the boards, pulling down 17 rebounds and added a game-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Joe Foley, a fellow junior, contributed 14 points and five rebounds for Menlo (1-2), which begins play in the Orange Holiday Classic on Monday against Esperanza (7-1) at Hope International University in Fullerton.
Eight players scored for the Knights, who led 33-15 at the half.