After suffering three straight losses, the Menlo-Atherton boys' basketball team appeared headed for another as it prepared to travel to face first-place Burlingame in a PAL Bay Division game on Friday night.
The Bears, however, welcomed back previously injured senior point guard Jeff Keller and went on to stun the first-place Panthers, 47-46, in a big showdown. Burlingame, which had been undefeated in the PAL with a significant nonleague win over Serra (which had defeated De La Salle), was a heavy favorite going into the game.
The Bears (3-5, 11-11), however, played tenacious team defense and took a 24-18 lead into halftime. M-A coach Phil White reminded his players that they needed to give their best for 32 minutes, having already played for 16. The Bears did just that.
Near the end of the game, Burlingame tied the game, but a key three-pointer by M-A's Reed Foster and big free throws by Keller gave the Bears the cushion they needed to pull off the upset. Keller, who has missed the previous three games (all losses) with an injury, led the Bears with 13 points. But, it was the play of Nils Gilbertson and Foster that shut down the front line of Burlingame and sealed the win. Michael Culhane and Myles Brewer combined for 13 points while McKinley Mathon added five.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Max Schmarzo provided 17 points with solid rebounding and defense as Palo Alto remained atop the SCVAL De Anza Division standings with a 52-38 victory over host Gunn on Friday night.
The Vikings improved to 7-1 (14-6) while the Titans fell to 3-6 (10-11). Paly broke open a close game in the third quarter with its pressing defense, which was led by Brendan Rider and Joseph Lin. The two, who combined for 21 points, forced Gunn into turnovers that led to layups and transition baskets.
Somewhat surprisingly, neither team got to the free-throw line much. Paly was only 5-of-7 while Gunn was just 1-of-2. Travis Bowers led Gunn with 16 points, making four three-pointers.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep outscored visiting Priory 18-2 in the second quarter and rolled to a 69-46 victory on Friday night in Atherton. The victory kept the Gators (9-1, 15-5) atop the standings, heading into a big game at second-place Pinewood on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Sacred Heart had a balanced scoring attack with junior Will McConnell leading the way with 13 points while senior Ty Cobb added 12. Priory senior Levente Juhos led all scorers with 19 points. Priory fell to 4-6 (10-10).
Also in Atherton, Pinewood held on to a share of second place in the WBAL with a 58-54 overtime win over host Menlo School on Friday night. Pinewood (8-2, 15-4) trailed most of the drama-filled game before surging in the fourth quarter to a 6-point lead with one minute left before Menlo hit two treys to send the game to overtime.
Pinewood never trailed in overtime, however, winning the extra period 8-4. Pinewood's big men played a tough defensive game, holding Menlo's 6-foot-6 Richard Harris to 3-of-16 shooting and accumulating eight blocks in the game.
Pinewood was led by sophomore Dante Fraioli with 18 points and three steals while 6-6 senior Max Lippe added 16 points, including four straight free throws in overtime. Pinewood made 13 more free throws than Menlo (4-6, 6-14) Pinewood junior Aaron Daines added nine points, five assists, and three steals. Menlo's Mac Osborne had another big game, bombing five 3-pointers en route to a 21-point night to lead the Knights. Kent Lacob added 13 points and Harris 10.
In East Palo Alto, Harker remained in a second-place tie with Pinewood following a 50-19 demolition of host Eastside Prep. Harker improved to 8-2 (16-4) while the Panthers continued their worst season ever, dropping to 1-9 (3-16 overall).
With the WBAL title already wrapped up, Sacred Heart Prep continued on its path toward a possible undefeated league season with a 3-0 victory over visiting Crystal Springs on Friday. The Gators improved to 12-0 in league (14-3 overall) and now are just two wins away from a perfect WBAL season. Riley Fallon scored two goals and Christian Thaure added one with Thaure and Cameron Bell providing assists.
At Menlo, the host Knights (6-4-2, 8-7-2) battled to a 1-1 tie on Friday against visiting Priory. The Panthers (6-3-2, 6-5-2) opened the scoring four minutes into the game and Menlo waited until the absolute end to draw even. The dramatic score came off an Ethan Leibovich assist to Vikram Padval, who used his head to even the score with just 28 seconds remaining in the game.
Elsewhere, Eastside Prep (4-4-2, 4-5-4) dropped a 3-2 decsion at Harker (5-5-2, 6-6-2) in WBAL action.