The experience and aggressive defensive style of the Eastside Prep girls basketball team were decisive factors Saturday as the Panthers handed St. Francis its first loss of the season, 47-43, at the Presentation Shootout.
St. Francis, under first-year coach Sami Field-Polisso, the former Los Gatos coach and one-time Pinewood standout as a player, went into the game 7-0. But against Eastside their only lead of the game came at 2-0.
While it might seem like a good early-season win for the Panthers, who came into the game having lost two of their first five games, Eastside coach Donovan Blythe didn’t want to make too much of it.
“We’ve got a long way to go,’’ he said.
An aggressive defensive approach in recent years has been characteristic of Eastside (4-2), the two-time defending state Division V champion. The Lancers managed only 11 field goals in 46 attempts (23.9 percent) and committed 16 turnovers. Most of their damage came at the foul line, where they were 18 of 25, compared to 7 of 13 for Eastside.
Four-year starter Kayla Tahaafe led Eastside with 14 points. The Panthers had no seniors on last season’s state championship team, but this season’s roster includes four freshmen, a nice infusion of new talent. One of them, 6-foot Marley Langi, was particularly impressive. She scored 12 points with 10 of her 12 scored in the final 10 minutes of the game. She made two of the three Eastside 3-pointers.
“She’s a good player,’’ Blythe said.
Mina Tameilau scored 10 points. Zion Gabriel, the star of the 63-40 victory in the state championship game against Rolling Hills Estates when she scored 26 points and knocked down eight 3-pointers, did not play in Eastside’s first five games this season due to a concussion.
She saw her first game action against St. Francis and looked rusty. Her shot wasn’t falling and she finished with two points. But she’s back and that’s another welcome addition for the Panthers.
After the St. Francis basket to start the game Eastside ran off the next nine points. The Lancers drew to within two at 31-29 late in the third quarter, but a 3-pointer by Langi gave Eastside a 34-29 edge at the break.
St. Francis pulled within a bucket again at 43-41 late in the fourth quarter. Tahaafe scored with 54 seconds left to make it a four-point margin and the Panthers held on down the stretch.
Eastside hosts Miramonte, a top North Coast Section team, on Monday at 6:30 p.m.