By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sparked by a buzzer-beating three-pointer just before halftime by guard Lauren Lete, the Menlo School girls' basketball team topped Scotts Valley, 58-46, in the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals Tuesday at Notre Dame-Belmont.
The No. 2-seeded Knights improved to 19-9 on the season while earning their first trip to the CCS title game since 2002, when they lost to Sacred Heart Prep, 28-24.
Menlo now has a chance to avenge that title-game loss -- 11 years later -- against Sacred Heart Prep in the title game Friday at Foothill College at 5:30 p.m. The No. 5-seeded Gators (21-8) upset No. 1 Soquel, 55-52, in the other semifinal.
"We know they're an excellent outside shooting team, so we're going to focus on stopping their outside game," said Menlo head coach John Paye.
The Knights started strong in the first quarter with a 15-6 run led by senior center Drew Edelman, who scored nine of the 15. The 6-foot-4, USC-bound Edelman had 16 points in the first quarter.
Edelman sank 10 field goals and had 22 points in the first half alone. Menlo's Lete drained a key 30-footer as time expired in the second quarter, giving the Knights a 33-19 advantage at the end of the first half.
"She's done that so many times," said Edelman. "In three games last year she made halfcourt shots like that -- it was ridiculous."
Third-seeded Scotts Valley (17-11) came out strong in the fourth quarter, knocking down a trio of three-pointers in the first two minutes of the quarter -- two of them from junior Angela Silver.
The Falcons went on a 9-2 run at the end, but the Knights' offense and Edelman were too tough as they held on for the victory. Edelman finished with a season-high 30 points and 22 rebounds. Junior Maddy Price added 16 points.
"We have an opportunity to do something that hasn't happened in a while," said Paye. "We have a history of championships at Menlo. It would be really nice for this team show up at the end and win the CCS title."
Menlo and SHP split their regular-season matches in the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) season, with the Knights winning the second meeting.
The Knights and Gators have met six times in the CCS finals, the last two in Division IV. SHP holds a 4-2 edge in the series, but both of Menlo's wins have come under the guidance of Paye (1990 and '91).
SHP coach Ann Tafolla will be making her first appearance in the finals while her Gators are returning to the title game for the first time since 2007.
SHP never trailed against Soquel and held a 35-25 halftime lead, even though the Gators' advantage dwindled to 38-37 late in the third quarter.
Sacred Heart Prep cashed in at the free-throw line down the stretch, finishing 13 of 20. Still, the Gators had to withstand a last-gasp three-point attempt by Soquel that missed with under 10 seconds to play.
Senior Helen Gannon led SHP with 14 points with junior Meghan Holland adding 12.
Boys' Open Division
Palo Alto saw its brief stay in the CCS Open Division playoffs come to an end following a 47-46 loss to No. 8 seed Soquel (21-7) on Tuesday night at Independence High in San Jose. Seniors Aldis Petriceks and Aubrey Dawkins led Paly with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Dawkins missed a shot on an inbounds play with under five seconds to play, which would have given the Vikings the win.
Paly played without junior center Keller Chryst, who suffered an ankle injury in an opening-round loss to Mitty. He'll miss the rest of the postseason. The No. 5-seeded Vikings were outscored in the second quarter, 11-4.
Palo Alto (23-3), which has lost back-to-back games in the postseason following a 21-game win streak to end the regular season, next will compete in the CIF NorCal playoffs that begin next week. All the teams that played in the new Open Division this year qualified for NorCals.
Girls' Open Division
Eastside Prep and Pinewood, who normally battle for section honors in Division V, both saw their CCS seasons end following second-round, consolation-bracket losses on Tuesday.
Fourth-seeded Eastside Prep (21-8) fell to top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral, 46-44, and No. 7 Pinewood (20-8) dropped a 50-42 decision to No. 3 St. Ignatius.
Both teams, however, will compete in next week's CIF NorCal playoffs as all eight teams in the Open Division qualified.
Pinewood was tied with SI at 16 in the second quarter before the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run to take the halftime lead at 26-16. The Panthers got to within 43-37 following a three-pointer by Marissa Hing in the fourth quarter.
Pinewood, however, was forced to foul to get the ball back and SI cashed in -- pulling away to a 49-37 advantage in the waning moments.
Boys' Division IV
Menlo employed a balanced attack and knocked off No. 2-seeded Palma, 64-53, to earn a trip to the CCS championship game on Friday at Foothill College at 8 p.m.
The No. 3-seeded Knights (19-7) play No. 4 Half Moon Bay (22-6), which upset No. 1 Seaside (20-4) in the earlier semifinal, 46-39. This will be Menlo's first CCS final since it won in 2009. The Knights will be seeking the seventh section title in program history.
Menlo displayed another show of balanced scoring with junior Jack Heneghan leading the way with 15 points. Fellow juniors Bobby Roth scored 13 and Ryan Young contributed 12 while sophomore Liam Dunn added 11.
Menlo used its signature third-quarter run, outpacing the Chieftains with a 20-8 run. The Knights closed in on a halftime deficit of three when they went on a 13-4 run in the opening minutes of the second half capped by Peter Bouret's driving layup for a 39-33 lead.
"We woke up in the third quarter," Menlo coach Delandro Leday said. "We started taking care of the ball well; we had some lazy passes, and we needed to have three solid possessions.
"We don't just have one kid, we have several guys who can play as well as long as we make sure we're defending and taking care of the ball -- they did that tonight."
Palma got as close as six in the fourth quarter, but Menlo had the game well in hand by then and after postgame handshakes, the team melted in with the Sea of Gold and well-wishers in a celebratory huddle.
Palma got most of its points (19) from Jacob Taylor and 17 from UCLA-bound Noah Allen, but showed that spreading out the offense works quite well.
Menlo fell behind by six in the first quarter until Wes Miller's basket and Liam Dunn's three closed the gap to 1 at the end of the first. Dunn added another three to open the second quarter, but Palma held a halftime lead 31-29.
Boys' Division V
Two-time defending champion Pinewood reached its fourth straight title game with a 62-42 romp over No. 3 seed St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic at Alma Heights in Pacifica on Tuesday.
The No. 2-seeded Panthers will face No. 1 Alma Heights (26-3) in the finals on Friday at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont at 8 p.m.
Junior guard Greg Naumann tallied 22 points for Pinewood in a game that was a rematch of last season's CCS finale. A 23-3 advantage in the third quarter made the difference for the Panthers.
In the other semifinal, No. 4 Eastside Prep (15-13) fell to Alma Heights, 32-28. Johnnie Walton led the Panthers with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Dae-Von Bishop added eight points and 10 boards.