by Tim Goode
Palo Alto Online Sports
Menlo-Atherton's magical postseason run took a detour Saturday night at the Central Coast Section Division I girls' basketball championship game.
North Salinas derailed the Bears, 51-31, at Santa Clara University's Leavey Center, ending the 10th-seeded Bears improbable title quest. The top-seeded Vikings (24-3) used fullcourt pressure to both frustrate and wear down M-A. The pressure caused 26 M-A turnovers and difficult shots when the Bears were able to set up.
M-A (15-16) gets a chance to extend its season in the Northern California playoffs which begin Monday or Tuesday.
Even more troubling for M-A was the early foul trouble center Victoria Fakalata found. Fakalata, who was the only Bear to score in the first 11:45, was whistled for her second foul less than four minutes into the first quarter and had to sit. She got her third a minute into the third and her fourth a minute later with North Salinas leading, 26-20. With its best scorer and rebounder on the bench, M-A fell behind 33-20 and never recovered. Guard Alexandria Flowers also experienced foul trouble and had four fouls to go with four points.
Other players tried to fill the void caused by Fakalata's absence. Tennyson Jellins scored 10 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead M-A in both categories. Jessica Tuliau had five points and made M-A's only three-point shot.
The pressure by the Vikings also caused fatigue. M-A made just four of 15 free throws and shot 33 percent from the floor (13 for 39). North Salinas, conversely, put up nearly twice as many shots, making 19 of 66 from the floor. North Salinas converted three three-pointers in the second half , including back-to-back bombs to gain its first 10-point lead.
M-A, which started the season with a 2-9 record, never won more than three games in a row until the playoffs started and M-A went on a four-game run that went to the final. After winning their first playoff game, the Bears beat No. 7 Gunn, No, 2 Gilroy and No. 3 Evergreen Valley before finally falling to No. 1 North Salinas.
"They had a good run," said M-A coach Pam Wimberly said of her girls. "They just ran into a tougher team."
When M-A was 2-9, the playoffs weren't a consideration and even a week ago NorCals weren't much of a thought.
"I didn't expect to be there (NorCals). No," Wimberly said. "We get another game. Hopefully it's not on Monday."
That would be a play-in game just to get into the main NorCal bracket. From there, it takes three victories to reach the NorCal finals on March 20. It's a long way to go. Menlo-Atherton, however, has been on a long journey this season anyway. What's another extra game?
CCS Division I championship
At Santa Clara University
Menlo-Atherton 6 10 8 7 - 31
North Salinas 8 12 16 15 - 51
M-A -- Pulido 1 0-0 2, Tuliau 2 0-0 5, Fakalata 2 2-3 6, Jellins 4 2-8 10, Flowers 2 0-1 4, Tupou 2 0-2 4. Totals: 13 4-15 31.
NS – Mackenzie 1 0-0 2, Winfield 4 0-0 8, Dacpano 1 0-0 3, Woo 3 4-6 12, Ayala 6 0-0 16, Brionna1 0-0 2, Ashen 3 2-6 8. Totals: 19 7-15 51.
Three-point goals: Tuliau (MA); Ayala 4, Woo 2 (NS).
Records: Menlo-Atherton 15-16