Sparked by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before halftime by guard Aidan Lucero, Pinewood topped visiting Menlo School, 49-44, in a West Bay Athletic League boys' basketball matchup Thursday night.
The Panthers improved to 11-1 (19-3 overall) while the Knights fell to 8-4 (9-13 overall). Pinewood is currently on an eight-game win streak and is a half-game ahead of Sacred Heart Prep for first place. The Gators (10-1) host last-place Crystal Springs on Friday night and are favored to move back into a tie for the top spot.
"This win means we have two more games left," said Pinewood head coach Mani Messy. "That's how we're going to approach it; our focus is on the next game right now."
Both Pinewood and Sacred Heart Prep, however, have no big obstacles in the way next week and, barring a major upset, the teams will share the WBAL crown.
Pinewood sophomore Kyle Murphy hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give his team the 16-12 lead to end the first quarter. The Panthers went 6 for 10 from the field to open the game and never lost the lead the entire game.
The Panthers led off the second quarter with a 3-pointer from senior MJ Stevens giving his team the 19-13 lead. Pinewood nailed four 3-pointers in the quarter and as a team totaled eight.
"We've been shooting the ball pretty well this year," said Messy. "We've done a good job finding guys and knocking shots down. Those guys work on that stuff so it's good to see it in the game."
Lucero got the crowd going and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer giving Pinewood the 32-26 lead going into halftime.
The Knights snuck back into it in the third quarter when senior Wes Miller hit a running jumper to tie the game at 32-32. Miller finished with eight points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Panthers sophomore Nathan Beak answered back and took the lead with a four-point play, nailing a 3-pointer and getting fouled in the process. Pinewood had the 43-37 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
The Knights' offense went ice cold in the fourth quarter and didn't score a basket for six minutes. Menlo shot only 1 for 6 from 3-point land and totaled just seven points in the quarter.
"It was a tough one," said senior guard Bobby Roth, who plans to attend Colorado College in the fall. "We came out and battled but unfortunately the ball didn't bounce our way at the end of the day."
The Knights will take on host King's Academy on Tuesday while Pinewood hosts Priory.
"It's always nice to get a league championship but, unfortunately, that didn't happen," said Roth, who helped Menlo win the WBAL and CCD Division IV titles last year. "We're now looking ahead to CCS and it doesn't matter what seed we are - we're just going to come out and play."
In the PAL South Division, Royce Branning nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 25 points, Menlo-Atherton rolled to a 64-29 victory over host Woodside to close the regular season. The Bears (8-4, 15-8) next will play in the PAL playoffs next week.
Castilleja capped a perfect 10-0 season in the WBAL Skyline Division with a 46-44 nailbiter over second-place King's Academy on thursday night in Sunnyvale. The Gators improved to 16-8 overall while the Knights dropped to 8-2 in leaguee (18-5 overall).
The Knights took a 17-11 first-half lead, but Castilleja fought back for a slim 18-17 halftime advantage as junior center Yasmeen Afifi managed nine points despite being double-teamed. Maddie Tarr hit a pair of third-quarter threes and Cate Alder and Paige Vermeer added 3-pointers.
King's Academy, playing before a noisy home crowd, held on to a 34-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Alder swished another three and Afifi added five more points and three critical offensive rebounds, and Castilleja regained the lead by 43-38-- only to have TKA surge yet again to within 44-41 late in the fourth.
Vermeer and Ellie Chen then sank last-minute free throws for the final margin of victory. Afifi finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Alder scored nine, Vermeer eight with five rebounds and four assists while Tarr added eight points and nine boards.
Castilleja will take a nine-game win streak into Monday night's WBAL playoff opener against visiting Harker at 6:30. The winner will visit Notre Dame-San Jose on Tuesday, also at 6:30 p.m.
In the WBAL Foothill Division, Pinewood made 16 three-pointers and wrapped up a perfect league season with a 71-39 drubbing of visiting Menlo School. The Panthers (10-0, 23-1) shot better from 3-point range (16 of 29, 55 percent) than from 2-point range (5 of 15, 33 percent) while coasting to the easy win.
Sophomore Chloe Eackles led the way with 15 points with Marissa Hing adding 11. Leanna Bade finished with seven points and nine rebounds. Menlo sophomore Hannah Paye led all scorers with 19 points, 15 coming on 3-pointers. Pinewood will be the No. 1 seed in the WBAL playoffs next week while Menlo will be the No. 3 seed.
In the PAL South Division, Menlo-Atherton put the finishing touches on its regular season with a solid 53-36 victory over host Woodside. The Bears snapped a two-game losing streak while preparing for next week's PAL playoffs.
The Wildcats, who played with only five active players, fought hard but it was not enough to keep pace with the deeper Bears, who led the entire game. Freshman posts Megan Sparrow and Ofa Sili led the Bears (8-4, 16-8) with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Freshman post Caitlin Trainer lead the Wildcats (0-12, 4-19) with 13.
Menlo-Atherton broke away from a deadlock at halftime and posted a 3-1 victory over host Woodside in PAL Bay Division action. The Bears (8-2-2, 11-3-2) wrapped up no worse than second place in the division.
Mario Rodriguez gave M-A a 1-1 deadlock at the half before Kyle Smith and Jorge Lopez added goals after intermission on assists by Niklas Sahavi and Miguel Orellana, respectively. The win avenged an earlier tie with the Wildcats and gave the Bears an automatic berth into the CCS playoffs.
Menlo-Atherton kept its home unbeaten streak alive by scoring a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over visiting Carlmont in PAL Bay Division action Thursday.
Carlmont's Kayla Fong put the Scots on the board early when she controlled a ball from just outside the box and fired a hard shot that hit the right post and then bounced off for the goal and a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
The Bears (6-4-2, 10-4-4) fought back and outshot the Scots, 7-3, in the first half with numerous scoring opportunities. In the 33rd minute, M-A freshman Katie Guenin was racing toward the goal when Carlmont's sophomore keeper, Alyssa Fagel, took down Guenin in the box. The foul earned Fagel a yellow card and gave M-A a penalty kick. Guenin cooly converted to knot the game at 1.
Just minutes later, Guenin was again taken down in the box, this time by a defender. A second penalty kick was awarded and another yellow card issued to the offending defender. This time senior Cayla Stillman converted for the eventual winning goal. M-A finished with a 2-1 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Bears continued to pressure the Scots and outshot them, 7-2. Sophomore Talia Missan received a ball and sprinted down the right sideline before getting off a great cross that was beautifully finished by Guenin on a header in the 23rd minute of the half to put M-A ahead 3-1.
The Bears held strong and finished with the victory to move within three points of Carlmont (7-3-2, 10-5-3) in the final standings. M-A, however, missed out on an automatic berth for the CCS playoffs by finishing fourth.
In the WBAL Foothill Division, Sacred Heart Prep finished off one of the most successful regular seasons in school history with a 2-0 victory over visiting King's Academy. The Gators improved to 10-1-1 in league (16-2-2 overall) while knocking off the defending Central Coast Section Division III champion.
Riley Shanahan scored in the 38th minute and Olivia Athens tallied four minutes later, with Brianna Carcione and Tierna Davidson providing assists as the Gators settled for second place behind undefeated Menlo School. Both teams earned automatic berths into the CCS playoffs.
(Castilleja, Menlo-Atherton Athletics contributed)