As the West Bay Athletic League got its Foothill Division season under way, the talk of possible contenders for the division title centered around defending champion Pinewood, Eastside Prep and Castilleja. There wasn't much talk about the Menlo School girls.
The Knights, despite winning the WBAL (Skyline Division) the previous season, appeared too young and inexperienced for the tougher Foothill Division. That has all changed.
The Knights now should be considered among the group of contenders now, especially since they're tied for first place with Eastside Prep after two games.
Overcoming a sluggish start with a strong fourth quarter, Menlo remained tied for first place with a 42-34 victory over host Sacred Heart Prep (0-2, 7-8) on Friday night. The Knights (2-0, 10-4) were led in scoring and rebounding by 6-foot-2 freshman Drew Edelman, who registered her 13th double-double of the season with 14 points and 15 rebounds to go along with six blocks.
However, it was the play of Menlo's two freshman guards who turned around the game in the second half to help Menlo win its fifth straight game. First it was Laura Gradiska, who hit a key free throw and three-point shot that turned the momentum around for Menlo in the second half. Then it was the explosive play of freshman Lauren Lete, who sealed the victory with six points in the fourth quarter. Next up for Menlo is a nonleague game on Monday at Scotts Valley High against San Jose High (2 p.m.) as part of the MLK Shootout.
In Palo Alto, Pinewood successfully rebounded from its first league loss in almost 15 years by edging host Castilleja on Friday night, 41-37, in a defensive battle that saw Castilleja score a season low in points. The WBAL (Foothill Division) contest was close throughout as neither team led by more than six.
Junior forward Hailie Eackles led Pinewood (1-1, 10-5) with 20 points while Kelsey Morehead added 12 points. Castilleja (1-1, 12-2) was sparked by junior Natasha von Kaeppler who led the Gators with 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and Castilleja's lone steal of the night, marking its season low in thefts. Freshman Lauren Rantz added 11 boards while sophomore Riya Modi dished out three assists.
Castilleja owned the glass, out-rebounding the Panthers, 39-18, and outscored Pinewood 9-0 on second-chance points. The two teams combined to shoot 91 percent (19-of-21) from the free-throw line, the highest combined free-throw in a Castilleja game in school history.
In East Palo Alto, Eastside Prep remained tied for first place in the WBAL (Foothill Division) with a 51-44 victory over visiting Mercy-San Francisco on Friday night. The Panthers (2-0, 13-2) were led by freshman Hashima Carothers, who scored a 15 points. Junior Ahjalee Harvey added 14 with senior Felicia Anderson contributing 12. The game was close throughout with the Panthers taking only a five-point lead into the final period.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn sophomore Julia Maggioncalda made a three-pointer with a minute to play to put the Titans on top for good in a 39-34 victory over host Palo Alto on Friday night. Gunn was trailing 34-32 when Maggioncalda buried her trey, which was followed by another three-pointer by teammate Isabel Juang with 12 seconds left. Maggioncalda made one of two free throws with a second remaining for the final points.
The victory for Gunn (2-2, 5-6) was the second this week after three straight losses and moved the Titans back within reach of the leaders, despite the fact Gunn has only one senior in the starting lineup that is filled with sophomores and freshmen.
"That was an important game for us," said Gunn coach Sarah Stapp. "Our girls really grew up tonight."
Palo Alto (2-1, 8-4) had been sitting atop the division as the only unbeaten team until the loss. Paly sophomore Emilee Osagiede made one of two free throws to tie the game with less than four minutes to play. She then assisted on a basket by Stephanie Allen, which gave the Vikings their final lead at 34-32 before Gunn rallied.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton dropped a tough 52-47 overtime decision to host Aragon on Friday night. Victoria Fakalata, who just rejoined the team, made her debut with 16 points to lead the Bears (0-2, 5-11) while Jessica Tuliau added 13.