Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 14, 2014

Eastside Prep girls lead four local survivors into the second round

by Andrew Preimesberger

The opening round of the CIF NorCal basketball playoffs is over. That means four local teams are alive to play another day and five are not.

Advancing to the quarterfinals on Saturday will be the Eastside Prep girls plus the Sacred Heart Prep and Pinewood boys. The Pinewood girls had a first-round bye and will open this weekend.

Gone from the playoffs are the Menlo-Atherton and Priory boys plus the Castilleja, Gunn, and Menlo School girls.

While there were a handful of close games on Wednesday night, one decidedly was not as the No. 4-seeded Eastside Prep girls (19-10) rolled to a 73-13 victory over No. 13 Central Catholic (17-11) of Modesto in a Division V opener.

The Panthers tuned up for NorCals by losing two tough games in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs last week.

Eastside Prep next will host No. 5 St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma on Saturday at 6 p.m. St. Vincent ousted No. 12 Ripon Christian, 46-33, in its first-round game.

"This was big," said Eastside Prep head coach Donovan Blythe. "You're always nervous because if you go down, it's over. We got the monkey off our back."

Eastside Prep used a stifling press that forced the Raiders into 25 turnovers. The Panthers' offense, meanwhile, had 29 field goals to just six for Central Catholic.

Raiders junior Danielle Friedrich scored the first basket of the game on a layup giving Central Catholic a 2-0 lead. As soon as the Raiders scored, however, the Panthers went straight to their press and caused Central Catholic to turn it over eight times in the first quarter.

"We're trying to get used to how we are going to have to play down the road," said Blythe. "If we continue to win, the competition will get better so we're going to have to be able to make stops and switch it up on teams defensively."

Panthers junior guard Brije Byers ended the quarter on a fastbreak layup giving her team a 23-4 lead through the first quarter. The junior had a solid game and finished with 21 points, her second-highest point total of the season.

Eastside Prep widened the lead when Byers nailed a 3-pointer in the second quarter, giving the Panthers a 35-4 advantage. Eastside Prep led at halftime, 44-8.

Panthers junior guard Chacitty Cunningham hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Eastside Prep a 61-12 lead to end the third quarter. The Panthers went on a 17-4 run during the quarter and limited the Raiders to only two field goals.

Friedrich, meanwhile, was held to only 10 points. The Central Catholic freshman was averaging 19 points a game.

With University of San Francisco women's basketball coach Jennifer Azzi in the stands, Eastside Prep's 6-foot-2 junior center Destiny Graham sank three jumpers in the fourth quarter to lead her team to the blowout win. She finished with 20 points and seven rebounds while senior Alexus Simon led the way with 22 points and 13 rebounds.

"I feel like now since we were all confident today, we're ready to play for state," said Byers. "We're also preparing for harder teams that we're going to play so we want our defense to be solid."

While Eastside Prep hosts Saturday, No. 2-seeded Pinewood (26-3) will do the same. The Panthers will take on No. 7 Valley Christian-Dublin (27-4) a6 p.m., following VD-Dublin's 54-47 win over No. 10 Durham in the first round.

Should both Pinewood and Eastside Prep win Saturday, Pinewood will remain at home Tuesday (7 p.m.) while Eastside Prep most likely will hit the road to face No. 1 Brookside Christian in Stockton.

In other girls' action Wednesday:

In Division I, Gunn saw its season end following a 47-23 loss to No. 5 McClatchy (26-4) in Sacramento. The Titans finished 10-9 under first-year coach Melanie Murphy, who guided Gunn to the CCS finals last weekend.

In Division IV, host Menlo School was eliminated by No. 9 Cardinal Newman, 47-35. The No. 8-seeded Knights finished 18-12, but did not go without a fight. The teams traded baskets through the second half, and Menlo finished the half ahead 21-20 on Sam Erisman's 3-pointer and Hannah Paye's free throws.

Cardinal Newman (24-7) came out of the half firing threes and forged ahead in the third. Erisman, a freshman, finished with a team-high 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and sophomore Mackenzie Duffner added 10 for the two-time defending CCS champion Knights, who bid farewell to senior captain Donya Dehnad, the team's leading rebounder.

In Oakland, Castilleja saw its season come to an end following a 48-30 loss to No. 6-seeded Piedmont (20-9). The No. 11-seeded Gators, playing in their first NorCal game since 2010, finished their season at 20-11 — reaching the CCS finals after winning the West Bay Athletic League (Skyline Division) title. Junior Paige Vermeer led Castilleja with 18 points and six rebounds, but was the only Gator in double figures.

Division I boys

Despite holding a 23-15 halftime lead, Menlo-Atherton's season came to an end in a 53-45 loss to No. 6 Rodriguez of Fairfield (27-3) in the opening round. The No. 11-seeded Bears finished 18-10. M-A played without center Oliver Bucka, who sprained an ankle in a 43-41 loss to Bellarmine in the CCS finals on Saturday.

The Bears were outscored by 39-23 in the second half despite the efforts of senior Royce Branning, who finished his career with 18 points.

Division IV boys

With Corbin Koch tossing in 19 points and Jim McLean adding 13, Sacred Heart Prep advanced in with a 56-52 win over No. 10 seed Colfax (17-14) on Wednesday in Atherton. SHP saw an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter whittled down to just a two-point game (51-49) until SHP sophomore Mason Randall hit a 3-pointer for a 54-49 lead. After Colfax answered with its own 3-pointer to make it 54-52 with about 30 seconds left, Randall finished off the visitors with a final hoop.

The No. 7-seeded Gators (21-7) next will visit No. 2 Salesian of Richmond (21-14) on Saturday at Albany High at 6 p.m. Salesian, which advanced with a 79-51 win over No. 15 Gridley, eliminated SHP in the NorCal finals two years ago.

Division V boys

With senior Greg Naumann pouring in 21 points, CCS champion Pinewood advanced with a 71-41 romp over No. 10 Forest Lake Christian (25-5) in Los Altos Hills. Aidan Lucero added 16 points for the No. 7-seeded Panthers (24-4), who next will visit No. 2 seed St. Joseph Notre Dame (27-5) on Saturday at 6 p.m.

"I thought we played a complete game on both ends of the court," said Pinewood coach Mani Messy. "There was some urgency in everything we did out there. I was very pleased with the contribution of each player. As we shift our focus toward a tough St. Joseph Notre Dame team, we will try and carry on some of the momentum from the game tonight."

Naumann was on target as he made nine of his 14 field-goal attempts. Ryan Brice added nine points plus 10 rebounds and Jordan Riches contributed 11 points to the balanced effort. Pinewood grabbed an early 15-2 lead and cruised from there while forcing 13 turnovers in the opening quarter.

At Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, No. 9 Priory ended its season with a 58-55 loss to No. 8 SF-University (25-7). The Panthers finished 16-11 after giving up the lead. Sophomore Scotty Harris led Priory with 19 points while senior Connor Bonfiglio added 13 and junior Andy Isokpehi finished with 11. University got two free throws with nine seconds left for a three-point lead before a 3-point attempt by Harris clanked off the back rim at the buzzer.

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