Castilleja girls shoot down Sacred Heart Prep hopes in playoffs

With von Kaeppler scoring 28 points, Gators advance in WBAL basketball tourney

With junior Natasha von Kaeppler pouring in 28 points and setting a school record in the process, Castilleja survived some tense moments and advanced to the semifinals of the West Bay Athletic League playoffs with a 50-37 victory over visiting Sacred Heart Prep on Thursday night.

Castilleja (18-7) will take on Eastside Prep on Friday at King's Academy in Sunnyvale. Pinewodd will face Mercy-San Francisco in the other. The championship game will be Saturday at 6 p.m., also at King's.

With von Kaeppler able to post up and hit layups and jump-hooks, she scored a career-high 28 points that established a school mark for a playoff game. Her 13 field goals also tied a school mark.

Castilleja outscored Sacred Heart 25-10 over the final 11 minutes to improve to 7-2 all-time in the WBAL playoffs. Castilleja senior Eve Zelinger, playing in what likely will be the final home game of her illustrious career, finished with 14 points and as the all-time leading scorer in games played at the new Joan Z. Lonergan center with 591 points.

Sacred Heart (8-17) came into the game with its season on the line. A win would have meant a CCS playoff berth, something that might have seemed out of reach for the visiting Gators after a winless season in the WBAL Foothill Division.

Sacred Heart Prep truly played as though their season depended on it as it never lost contact with Castilleja. Trailing by five late in the first half, Sacred Heart rallied for a pair of baskets and went into the break trailing only by two. In the third quarter, Prep continued its comeback and eventually took a two-point lead midway through the third.

Castilleja made sure the deficit didn't grow larger than one possession and answered by outscoring the Gators by five over the final minutes of the period to take a three-point lead into the fourth. Castilleja scored the first six points in the fourth as its run grew to 14-3 in response to losing the lead. Castilleja got 24 points from von Kaeppler after the first quarter.

Senior Tayo Amos led Castilleja with a career-high 12 rebounds while von Kaeppler and Zelinger both recorded double-doubles with 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively. Zelinger led the way with eight assists, marking the eighth time she's recorded a game of at least eight points, rebounds and assists. Riya Modi added four assists. Castilleja outrebounded Sacred Heart Prep, 41-22, and held a 10-0 advantage on fastbreak points.

In another WBAL quarterfinal, Menlo School finally ran out of gas in its 25th game and showed its youth and inexperience in a 74-34 loss to host Mercy-San Francisco on Thursday night.

The host Skippers (19-6) raced to a 27-5 first-quarter lead and coasted to the easy victory while handing the Knights their worst loss of the season. Menlo (13-12) was led junior Whitney Hooper, who had eight points and nine rebounds. Next up for Menlo will be the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs starting next week.

In the Peninsula Athletic League playoffs, Menlo-Atherton used its height advantage to eliminate visiting Jefferson, 56-28, in a quarterfinal on Thursday night. The Bears (11-14) will face Terra Nova on Friday night (6 p.m.) in a semifinal at El Camino High.

Menlo-Atherton's 2-3 zone defense and height made it difficult for the Indians (5-16) to get their running game in gear. M-A coach Pam Wimberly wanted to set the pace, and did.

Senior Jessica Tuliau sparked the victory from her point-guard position. She scored six points, distributed the ball well, had four steals and grabbed five rebounds in a solid all-around game. The Bears' zone forced the visitors to shoot from the perimeter, which proved unsuccessful. M-A's Victoria Fakalata, Sela Tupou and Tennyson Jellins, meanwhile, did a good job with their interior defense.

Jellins, a sophomore, was solid with 11 rebounds to go with 10 points. Tupou added 11 points while Alexandria Flowers contributed 10 points. Fakalata had eight rebounds and eight points to lead a balanced effort.

Menlo-Atherton grabbed a 26-6 lead in the second quarter and had a 33-11 advantage in the third on its way to the impressive performance.

Boys' basketball

Menlo Atherton reached the semifinals of the Peninsula Athletic League Tournament with a 43-29 win over visiting Half Moon Bay on Thursday night. The Bears (14-11) will play on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., with a victory moving them into Saturday's championship game at El Camino High.

M-A came out fast, shooting to a 10-0 lead with a patient offense and great defense. The Bears led at the half by 29-11. Half Moon Bay started the second half fired up, holding M-A to only four points in the third while the Cougars scored 11 and closed the gap. Menlo-Atherton, however, stayed with its game plan and pulled away in the fourth. Nils Gilbertson had a career-high 19 points for the Bears while Reed Foster added 14.

Gilbertson hit four straight technical fouls to give the Bears a 27-10 lead in the second quarter. He followed that with an ensuing basket and the Bears had a 19-point lead they would never relinquish.

In a West Bay Athletic League regular-season finale, Menlo (7-7, 9-15) lost to host Harker, 52-45. The Knights were led by Harrison Nida's 16 points. Richard Harris scored 13 while Kent Lacob added 10. Harker was led by Bryan Cali with 21 points. Menlo, the defending CCS Division IV champion, will discover on Saturday if it will be playing next week in the section playoffs.

Boys' soccer

Palo Alto pulled into a two-way tie for third place in the SCVAL De Anza Division race with a 2-0 victory over visiting Milpitas on the final day of the regular season. The Vikings finished 5-3-4 in league (8-4-7 overall) for 19 points. Gunn also had 19 points with a 6-5-1 league mark. Mountain View won the division crown at 8-3-1 while Los Gatos was second at 7-2-3.

With only the top three teams earning automatic bids to the Central Coast Section playoffs that begin next week, Gunn and Paly were to learn their fate at the SCVAL meeting on Thursday night. Paly has the best overall record and more CCS power points than Gunn, which may hold the tiebreaker for most goals in its head-to-head battle with Paly.

The Vikings put themselves back into the playoff picture as sophomore Kris Hoglund, who played the past two matches in goal, was moved back to the field and scored the eventual winning goal when John Anderton crossed the ball to Hoglund, who headed it into the upper left corner in the 38th minute to break a 0-0 deadlock. In the second half, Jenner Fox took a John Richardson pass and pushed it pass the Milpitas keeper for the final goal.

Austin Smith and Richardson had nice games and did a great job of controlling the back line. Fox had another top game, controlling the Paly attack and slowing down the Milpitas counterattacks. James Maa was in top form for the Vikings as an outside midfielder and played well both offensively and defensively.

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