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By Glenn Reeves Palo Alto Online Sports
For all the success the two local programs, separated by a scant few miles, have achieved in recent years, the Menlo-Atherton and Eastside girls basketball teams had not played each other in a regular-season game until Wednesday, when the host Bears used a fourth-quarter rally to pull out a 52-45 victory.
Eastside has set a standard of excellence in girls basketball under Donovan Blythe, going 149-65 over the past seven years and winning a state championship last March.
M-A had gone through several sub-par seasons before Markisha Coleman took over. But the team is on the way up now and Coleman knows the schedule needs to reflect that.
"I told the team, if you want to be the best you've got to play the best, '' Coleman said.
Playing Eastside is special in another way for Coleman, who starred there in high school before going on to play college ball at Stanford.
"I'm here because of Eastside,'' Coleman said. "I had a great time there in high school, athletically and academically.''
The matchup dynamic in Wednesday's game pitted Menlo-Atherton's frontline size against Eastside's backcourt quickness. M-A was winning the matchup early, feeding Greer Hoyem on the low post, and opening an 11-point lead at 28-17 late in the second quarter.
Hoyem's three-point play made it 33-24 in the third quarter. A little later she picked up her fourth foul, went to the bench, and Eastside made a run.
Behind the 3-point shooting of Ra'Anaa Bey and the relentless penetration moves of point guard Kayla Tahaafe, Eastside went on a 16-6 run to close the quarter with a 40-39 lead.
Tahaafe, who finished with 17 points, scored to start the fourth quarter and make it a 42-39 lead for the Panthers. But Hoyem returned to the floor with 5:32 left and M-A reversed course. Mele Kailahi (six points) and Hoyem (five) combined for all the points in an 11-1 run as M-A took control and held on for the win.
Hoyem, a back-to-the-basket low-post force as a sophomore, led all scorers with 20 points.
"Every day she works on her mid-range game in practice,'' Coleman said. "She is very effective down low but is working to become a more complete player.''
Eastside, which has played with only five or six players total the last several years, has a deeper bench this season, a bench that includes a couple of six-foot freshmen.
"We're a work in progress,'' said Blythe, whose team lost to South San Francisco on Tuesday and is now 3-2. "We're hoping by the middle of the season those freshmen will be ready to contribute.''
Until then, Tahaafe will carry the load. She went into the M-A game averaging 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game.
"She has such a tremendous will to succeed and lead the team,'' Coleman said. "She is amazing.''
Junior Spencer Rojahn scored 15 points and Palo Alto earned a trip to Friday night's championship game of the Burlingame Lions Club tournament by beating the host Panthers, 81-41, Wednesday night.
Senior Jack Simison contributed 14 points, junior Jared Wulbrun scored 11, and junior Max Dorward had 12 points.
Senior point guard Miles Tention filled up the stat page with a solid performance. He scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds, and added three assists and three steals.
The Vikings (2-0) plays Stuart Hall (6-2) for the title on Friday at 8 p.m. at Burlingame. The Vikings beat perennial ppowewr Half Moon Bay, 48-42, in the other semifinal.
Sacred Heart Prep beat Irvington, 70-56, in another tournamernt game. Eric DeBrine led the Gators (1-1) with 21 points and Tevin Panchal added 18.
The Gators play Aragon for the consolation title at 5 p.m. Friday at Burlingame.
Leland beat Gunn, 55-50, in the first round of the Wildcat Shootout in Los Gatos. The Titans (3-1) were led by Jeffrey Lee-Heidenreich with 19 points, Demario Shepard with 10 points, and Evan Dray with 11 rebounds.
Diana Morales scored for defendng CCS Division I champion Menlo-Atherton in a 1-1 draw with visiting Mountain View, last year's runnerup in the Open Division.
The loss of sophomore defender Lizzie Young to an injury in the first minutes of the game was overcome by strong defensive work from seniors Ali Sivilotti, Allison Galbraith, and Teresa Amor, junior Grace Brieger, and sophomore Maggie Hall.
Numerous saves by junior goalkeeper Breanna Sandoval kept the score close, with seniors Nicole Salz, Margaret Child, Alissa McNerney, junior Olivia Shane, and sophomore Yara Gomez Zavala helping defensively.
The Bears (0-2-1) travel to Presentation on Dec. 17th for a 10 a.m. game.