Menlo boys grab two-game lead in WBAL hoops

Knights knock Sacred Heart Prep two games back with five to play

What a difference a week makes for the tales of the Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep basketball teams.

After Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep's scheduled meeting last Tuesday was forced to be cancelled due to the collapse of referee Pat Boland in the first quarter, Menlo dominated the restart from its inception on Wednesday, defeating the Gators 66-48.

The victory gives Menlo a commanding two-game lead in the West Bay Athletic League at 8-1 in league play (15-3 overall), leading Sacred Heart and Harker, both at 6-3. Menlo beat Harker 55-31 on Tuesday night, while Sacred Heart fell to Priory, 55-54, on a game-winning three-pointer by Ignas Pavilonis with 1.5 seconds remaining -- moving Menlo into first place for the first time since the Knights' loss to Harker on January 9.

On Wednesday, Menlo was led by a trio of seniors -- Alex Smith scored 17 points with six rebounds, Kenny Diekroeger added 15 points and five boards and center Will Tashman poured in 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a dominant post presence.

"They were playing very tough on-ball defense, and they had (Alex) Baloff guarding me, who's a bigger guy, so I thought I could take him outside a little bit," said Smith. "That worked. It opened up things for Tashman, and (Daniel) Hoffman, and even Kenny down low, and my shots were falling. It started feeling good."

Diekroeger also played a key role ensuring the victory down the stretch, sinking seven of eight free throws.

"We shared the ball really well on offense. I know we were pretty even scoring," said Smith.

Due to Boland's collapse, the game restarted Wednesday night with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter and Sacred Heart leading 6-4. However, by the end of the first quarter, Menlo led 14-11, and by halftime, the Knights established their hold on the game, leading 34-21.

The Knights broke out to their big lead with the help of a 16-2 run between the first and second quarters, a streak during which Menlo rarely missed a shot, while Sacred Heart shooters went cold.

For the Gators, Ryan Sakowski provided the one highlight with a game-high 20 points, including four threes. Sakowski had all six of Sacred Heart's points from last Tuesday, and continued his hot hand from behind the arc. However, Sakowski did not get the support from his teammates that Smith did, with no other Gator in double digits.

"We defended really well, both on-ball and off-ball," said Smith.

Entering the game, sophomore Reed McConnell had been Sacred Heart's leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game. However, the Knights limited him to just three points. Sacred Heart's second leading scorer was Alex Baloff, who contributed nine points.

Once Menlo went on its 16-2 run, the Knights never came close to relinquishing the lead. After a three-pointer from McConnell, the Gators moved to within 12 points in the fourth quarter, but could not come any closer.

Boland, who was determined to have suffered a seizure and cardiac dysrhythmia while refereeing the game last Tuesday, was in attendance Wednesday and addressed the fans before the game while receiving a standing ovation.

The Knights will put their two-game league lead and eight-game winning streak on the line on Friday when they take on Crystal Springs- Uplands (1-8, 4-16).

"We do have the two-game lead, but we still have to take this one game at a time. We have two tough games next week (against Priory and Eastside Prep)," Smith said. "We've seen in this league, whether it's Pinewood, Eastside, Priory, or the two teams we played this week, everyone can play. So you have to come with it every night."

The Gators (12-8 overall), who now have lost three straight after winning 11 in a row, will look to break their slump on Friday, hosting Eastside Prep (6-3, 13-6) at 6:30 p.m. The Panthers are coming off a 57-43 win over visiting Pinewood (3-6, 9-9) on Tuesday, the same Pinewood team that beat SHP last week, 68-64.

In the PAL South Division on Wednesday, Menlo-Atherton twice allowed 17-point leads to disappear and eventually dropped a 67-61 overtime decision to host Sequoia. The Bears fell to 3-3 in league (14-9 overall).

Menlo-Atherton seniors Peter Defilipps (26 points) and Sam Knapp (18) carried the Bears, who battled back after losing the big leads to force overtime. Once there, however, it was all Sequoia, which scored 13 points in the extra period. The Bears couldn't stop Sequoia's JJ Mitchell, who scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

Menlo-Atherton plays host to Carlmont on Friday at 7:45 p.m., with hopes of getting back into the division race.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sportsmanship
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

Congrats to the Menlo team on their outstanding performance. It's great to see a team excelling while also showing such class and good sportsmanship.

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