It's taken some time, but the Menlo-Atherton boys basketball team is starting to come around.
Since returning from a trip to a tournament in Arizona over the winter break, the Bears have won three in a row and are doing it with unselfish play and devotion to defense, keeping all three opponents to scoring in the 30s.
M-A beat Capuchino (56-39) and Sequoia (68-31) in the first week of PAL South Division play and on Saturday defeated Palo Alto 57-32.
The Bears have gone 169-81 in Mike Molieri's 10 years as head coach. In the five seasons preceding the truncated affair last spring they went 114-33, averaging 23 wins per campaign.
They started this season 3-2 with losses to Menlo and Mitty, before going 1-2 at the Cactus Jam tournament in Arizona, losing to strong teams from Ohio and Utah
"We're playing better,'' Molieri said. "That Arizona trip helped us getting to this level.''
Highlight reel offense has never characterized Molieri's teams. The emphasis has always been on feisty defense and a sort of gestalt of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Against Paly, Connor Cadigan with 12 and Jalen Williams with 10 were the leading scorers. Molieri praised the rebounding and defense of Allen Chang (six points, five rebounds) and the leadership provided by football quarterback turned basketball guard Matt MacLeod
Noah Chen scored 12 for Palo Alto (7-5).
"I'm comfortable throwing 10 or 11 bodies out there,'' Molieri said. "We have a deep bench. I tell them it's not about who's starting, it's about winning. We'd be real happy if we had five balls, but we only have one, so let's share it and play as a team.''