Menlo-Atherton boys shoot down rival Menlo, 50-38

Menlo-Atherton senior shooting guard Royce Branning scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers, to lead the Bears to a 50-38 nonleague basketball victory over crosstown rival Menlo School on Friday night.

The Bears improved to 3-2 as the Knights fell to 1-4.

Menlo started its first five games season last year at 2-3 but turned it around and finished the season at 21-8 overall.

"We're just starting to hit our stride," said Branning. "It's really fun to come out here and get a good win against our cross town rivals -- This was a huge one tonight."

The Bears are averaging 54.6 points per game in their past three wins.

Menlo started out the first quarter on a 9-4 run led by senior Bobby Roth, who accounted for four points in the first four minutes. Branning accounted for six points and gave his team the 17-11 going into the second quarter.

Roth, who is averaging 14.5 points per game, was held to nine points total by a stubborn M-A defense.

"Our goal was to defend and really pack in the paint," said Bears' head coach Michael Molieri. "We did not want Bobby Roth to beat us and we were going to throw bodies at him. They are a very well-disciplined and well-coached team."

Branning came through again in the second quarter and sank two right-wing jumpers. Menlo senior Ryan Young made a layup and got fouled with time expiring and trimmed the Bear lead to 25-22 going into halftime.

Branning stepped up for the Bears when he nailed a three-pointer with time expiring in the third quarter and gave his team the 37-32 lead.

"Our philosophy is that we're going to shoot threes," said Molieri. "We struggled in the first half and made some turnovers but we had opportunities in the second half and we shinned."

Branning was hitting clutch shots all night and made another one when he made a backward layup and got fouled, giving his team the 47-33 lead in the fourth quarter.

"I knew it was closing time," said Branning. "I wanted to draw contact and get to the line so I put it up and fortunately it dropped in."

Branning was out for the whole season last year due to a football injury.

The Bears will travel Half Moon Bay on Jan. 4, while the Knights host Burlingame Saturday.

Knights' star forward Jack Heneghan hasn't played this season after missing the final two football games due to a shoulder injury that hasn't healed yet. Heneghan averaged 11.6 points per game last year. The senior plans to attend Dartmouth University in 2014.

In an earlier game, the M-A girls' improved to 2-1 as they beat the visiting Knights, 56-41. Menlo has now lost three of its past five games and is 3-4 overall. Sarah Howell and Emma Heath led the way for the Bears with 14 points each. Sam Erisman had 17 points and Donya Dehnad contributed with 13 for Menlo.


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