"I was unsure how we'd play,'' Menlo coach John Paye said. "Now I'm excited for the future.''
Sophomore point guard and team captain Avery Lee leads the team in scoring (17.0 points per game), followed by freshman Sharon Nejad (12.2 points, 9.7 rebounds), sophomore CoCo Layton (9.7 pointts) and junior Maiea Makoni (9.4). So it's understandable how excited Paye must be about this group's ultimate potential. But before looking too far down the road there's a pretty important game to focus on this week.
Menlo (25-5), which won the NorCal Division II championship with a 53-38 victory over Enterprise of Redding, now plays Rolling Hills Prep of San Pedro for the state Division II championship on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento at 2 p.m.
Rolling Hills won the SoCal title with a 54-53 win over Mark Keppel of Anaheim in double overtime.
"They remind me a lot of Priory,'' Paye said. "They have a 6-4 center, they shoot well and do a lot of things on defense.''
Rolling Hills beat Priory for the state Division IV championship last year after losing to Eastside Prep in the 2017 Division V title game.
"They've been on center stage already, played in an NBA arena before,'' Paye said. "I hope we shoot well and get off to a good start.''
Clarice Akunwafo, a 6-4 sophomore, averages 18.8 points and 12.2 rebounds to lead Rolling Hills. So Nejad, Menlo's 5-10 post player, will have her work cut out for her.
Lee has led Menlo in scoring in all four NorCal games and has scored in double figures in all 30 games this season.
"Joe Montana was a champion because he made other players around him better,'' said Paye, who had first-hand experience with Montana as a quarterback with the 49ers in the 1980s. "Avery does the same thing with our team.''
And as for Nejad, who's had a double-double in all four NorCal games, Paye noted that she's the only CCS athlete he knows of to have played in the state Open Division playoffs in both basketball and volleyball. And to do it as a freshman is even more special.
Menlo will be out to win its first state girls basketball title since 1991, which was the third of three consecutive Division V titles coached by a young John Paye with sister Kate Paye, now the associate head coach with the Stanford women's team, his star player. So the Paye's are in the unique position of being able to evaluate the state of high school girls basketball, then and now.
"Kate came with three of her teammates from that 1991 team to the Enterprise game,'' John Paye said. "Her teammates told me, 'they are so much better than we were.' But Kate didn't agree.''
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