Menlo School and Castilleja didn't get a chance to face each other during the West Bay Athletic League girls' basketball season. The Knights played in the Foothill Division and the Gators in the Skyline Division.
Fifth-seeded Castilleja (20-9) reached its first-ever finale since moving up to Division IV with a dominating 48-28 semifinal victory over No. 1 seed and host Notre Dame-Belmont (10-17).
Earlier in the evening on the same floor, No. 2-seeded Menlo (17-11) took a step closer to defending its D-4 crown with a 43-40 win over No. 6 King's Academy (21-7).
"I'm stoked," said Menlo senior Donya Dehnad, who finished with 16 points. "We've been working really hard and I think that it shows on the court. I think the fact that everyone underestimated us and didn't think we would get here has really motivated us to work hard and prove them all wrong."
With 34 seconds left in the game, Menlo sophomore Mackenzie Duffner was fouled then sank one out of two free throws, giving Menlo a 42-40 lead. King's Academy had a chance to tie the game, but senior guard Falecia Sanchez committed a traveling violation and turned the ball over to Menlo.
Dehnad got off to a hot start and scored nine points, giving her team the 17-12 first-quarter lead. The press defense was working well for Menlo as it created six turnovers in the quarter -- 29 total.
"We like to have an up-tempo game," said Menlo head coach John Paye. "We did create a lot of turnovers and we did get in some foul trouble, but I was happy with our team play."
Menlo, however, did miss 10 free-throw attempts.
King's Academy junior guard Katie Young ran past the Menlo defense and scored a layup at the buzzer, tying the game at 28 going into halftime. Young had a solid game and finished with 15 points.
The Menlo defense was sturdy again in the third quarter. King's Academy went on a five-minute scoring drought and was able to score only two points for the quarter total.
"They definitely had the momentum going into halftime but our girls responded and limited them to only two points in the third quarter so that was key," said Paye.
With King's Academy down by three points with six seconds left in the game, Menlo's defense was huge again and didn't let the visitors get off a shot to tie the game, sealing the win.
"We have a really intense fullcourt press," said Dehnad. "We work really hard on it because we know we can get those turnovers and convert on the points from those turnovers. It's been effective; if we keep it up I think we can definitely win the next game."
In the second game, Castilleja avenged a 24-point season-opening loss to ND-Belmont in December. In that game, Paige Vermeer did not play due to injury.
Vermeer, this season's WBAL Skyline Division MVP, made her presence felt against the Tigers on Tuesday with a career-high 26 points and six steals.
Despite losing center Yasmeen Afifi for part of the first half due to injury, the Gators led 20-11 at halftime. With Vermeer scoring 11 points, Castilleja extended its lead to 34-18 after three quarters. The Tigers opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, but could get no closer as the Gators' fullcourt zone press held an opponent to 30 or fewer points for the 10th time this season.
Afifi returned in the second half and finished with her 12th double-double, with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Open Division girls
Fourth-seeded Pinewood and No. 7 Eastside Prep can set their sights in next week's NorCal Division V playoffs after dropping semifinal games on Tuesday.
Pinewood (25-3) fell to top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral, 57-47, while Eastside Prep (18-10) suffered a tough 64-57 double-overtime loss to host Mitty.
Pinewood will host No. 3 Scotts Valley (24-4) on Thursday (7 p.m.) in the third-place game while Eastside Prep is finished with CCS play.
Senior Leeana Bade led Pinewood with 19 points. The Panthers lost junior guard Marissa Hing to fouls midway through the fourth quarter.
Eastside Prep battled No. 3 Mitty (17-11) evenly throughout, deadlocking the game at the end of regulation (44-44) and again after the first overtime (51-51) before the Monarchs pulled away. Junior Destiny Graham led Eastside Prep with 20 points with Alexus Simon adding 19.
Division IV boys
Sacred Heart Prep will play for its fourth CCS Division IV title in five years after the top-seeded Gators (19-7) rolled to a 62-45 semifinal victory over No. 4 Palma (16-10) on Tuesday night at Menlo School.
The Gators will face No. 6 Harker (18-9) in the title game on Saturday. Sacred Heart Prep and Harker played twice during the WBAL regular season, with the teams splitting. The Eagles' victory in the second meeting cost the Gators sole possession of first place.
Junior Corbin Koch had a game-high 22 points for SHP with sophomore Mason Randall adding 18, 15 coming on 3-pointers. A 35-23 advantage in the second half, during which Randall drained a trio of 3-pointers, proved to be the difference for the Gators.
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