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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 2, 2012

Titles to defend and wins

Paly-Gunn girls' rematch tops list of section showdowns

by Keith Peters

The goals are pretty straightforward for a quartet of four local basketball teams this weekend — defend their Central Coast Section championships.

For two other local squads, their goals are pretty simple, as well — don't let their opponents defend.

It won't be much simpler than that beginning Friday when the Sacred Heart Prep boys will take on Half Moon Bay while seeking a third straight CCS Division IV crown at Santa Clara University at 4:45 p.m.

On Saturday, the Pinewood girls will go after a fourth straight Division V section crown against Eastside Prep at 10 a.m. At noon, the Pinewood boys will take on St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic for the Division V title. Finally, at 6 p.m., the Palo Alto and Gunn girls will meet for a third time this season and in the CCS Division I title game for a second straight season.

The good news for the six local finalists is that all will advance to the CIF Northern California playoffs that begin Tuesday. The CCS champs all will earn home games in the first round.

The bad news for the local teams is that only two are assured of bringing home championship trophies.

The Gunn girls would like to be one of those teams.

The Titans played in title games in 2009 and again last season, losing both. As they say, three's a charm and Gunn coach Sarah Stapp hopes that will be the case after her No. 1-seeded team posted a 52-40 victory over No. 4 Santa Teresa on Wednesday night at Christopher High in Gilroy.

"I'm proud of our girls, in how they played tonight," said Stapp, "and I'm proud of our league in having three teams in the semis with two of us making the finals. It says a lot about the caliber of our league."

While some thought Gunn would have an easy time with Santa Teresa (19-10), Stapp was not one of them.

"They're very well coached and have a lot of great players," said Stapp. "We had to play a solid game to come out on top and fortunately we did."

The game was much closer than the final score indicated and, while Gunn did lead at one point by 16 late in the game, the game wasn't fully decided until the final three minutes. In fact, early in the fourth, Gunn only led by 31-29 and Santa Teresa had the ball with the chance to tie or go ahead.

But, after a missed shot by the Saints, Gunn freshman Meghan Mahoney got one of her team high nine rebounds and senior Julia Maggioncalda converted on a basket to put Gunn up 33-29. That basket started a 10-0 run in a two-minute span that saw back to back three pointers by sophomore Zoe Zwerling and Maggioncalda, followed by an inside basket by Cat Perez to put the Titans up 41-29 with 4:57 remaining.

From that point on, Gunn comfortably led by at least nine the rest of the game as it closed out the game to improve its record to 18-6 and earn the berth to the finals.

Zwerling led all scorers with 18 points followed by Perez with 15. Maggioncalda also scored in double figures with 10 while Mahoney tallied six.

Gunn, which split its SCVAL De Anza Division games with Palo Alto this season, will be out to avenge last year's 54-44 loss to the Vikings in the section finale while looking for its first-ever CCS title.

Third-seeded Palo Alto, of course, will be looking for a second straight CCS crown after winning its first in 2011. The Vikings (19-4) took a big step in that direction by posting a big 45-33 victory over No. 2 Wilcox at Christopher High.

It was the second win in three meetings with the Chargers this season and perhaps the most impressive one, given what was at stake.

"This was the best defensive game Palo Alto has played this year," said Paly coach Scott Peters.

The Vikings did another great job on Joeseta Fatuesi, limiting the Wilcox standout to just 11 points.

"Emilee Osagiede was all over the court with steals, rebounds and overall great defensive presence," said Peters. "Emilee led a great team effort on defense while Josie Butler and Lindsay Black were instrumental, as well.

"The plan was to limit Fatuesi in the post and stop the outside shots of the Wilcox guards, which had hurt us in the past," Peters said. "Again, I think we accomplished this goal with our efforts tonight."

Osagiede, Black and fellow senior Stephanie Allen led the way on offense while combining for 36 points. Black tallied 16 to grab game-high honors.

"On offense, the key was to play at a great pace and run the floor to try to tire out Fatuesi, which I think we did," Peters said. "We also did a great job of offensive rebounding the entire game.

"Lindsay played one of her finest games overall, with aggressive offense and tenacious defense," said Peters. "Sam Borsos, Charlotte Alipate, Annie Susco and Abby Strong also contributed to the defensive effort."

Division V girls

Pinewood will seek its 14th section title in program history when the Panthers of Los Altos Hills take on the Panthers of Eastside Prep in the section title game Saturday at Santa Clara University.

Second-seeded Pinewood (18-11) earned another title shot with a 61-36 romp over No. 3 St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic on Wednesday in Los Altos Hills.

Sophomore Leeana Bade produced 17 points and 14 rebounds in perhaps her best all-around game of the season for veteran coach Doc Scheppler. Bade's sister Gabi, a freshman, made it a family affair with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Jenny Hansen, one of only two seniors on the team, had a solid game with 13 points and five rebounds. The Panthers made nine of 28 three-point attempts, shooting 44 percent overall.

Pinewood will have to shoot and defend well if it's going to defeat top-seeded Eastside Prep (14-14) in a rematch of last season's section finale won by Pinewood, 45-44.

The Panthers of East Palo Alto will be out to win their third section title overall and the first since 2008 after advancing with a 68-54 semifinal victory over No. 4 seed Pacific Collegiate of Santa Cruz on Wednesday in Los Altos Hills.

Eastside Prep junior Hashima Carothers came up with a huge game of 24 points and 24 rebounds to spark the winning effort, overcoming a 28-point outburst by sophomore Morgan Green of Pacific Collegiate.

After the Pumas got to within 44-41 in the third quarter, Eastside Prep pulled away with a 13-6 run for a 57-47 advantage after three quarters. Sophomore Kimberly Leu had five of the points.

Eastside Prep pulled away in the fourth quarter as freshman Chacitty Cunningham provided back-to-back hoops to spark a 7-0 run to end the game.

Division IV boys

A year ago, Cole McConnell had a safety net in his twin brothers, Will and Reed. The seniors led the Sacred Heart Prep boys' basketball team and Cole was happy to play a supporting role.

This season, Will is at Dartmouth and Reed is at UC Irvine, and Cole has needed to take on more of a leadership role along with his scoring by getting his teammates involved. It's a role that suits Cole and has been successful for the Gators.

McConnell made seven three-pointers and scored 25 points to pave the way for a 68-44 romp over Harker on Tuesday night in Atherton in the Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals at Menlo School.

The No. 3-seeded Gators (20-6) earned its fifth straight trip the to section finals and will seek a third straight title against No. 4 Half Moon Bay (23-5), which upset No. 1 Palma, 49-42.

The Gators, who beat Harker twice during the West Bay Athletic League season, posted its biggest triumph of the three meetings by racing to a 42-21 halftime lead. McConnell, who scored a career-high 32 points in the previous win over Harker, averaged 24.3 points in his team's three wins against the WBAL foe.

Sacred Heart Prep used its stingy pressing defense, sparked by Pat Bruni and Cameron Van, to grab a 19-6 first-quarter lead. Point guard Kevin Donahoe ran the offense and contributed nine points while Derek Hunter and Van added eight points each while SHP coach Tony Martinelli was able to get all 13 players into the game as the Gators' lead ballooned in the second half.

Division V boys

Top-seeded Pinewood (24-2) ran out to a 62-27 lead en route to a 74-48 blowout over No. 4 St. Thomas More (20-4) in a semifinal on Wednesday at St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic in Watsonville.

Kevin Sweat led Pinewood with 16 points while fellow senior Solomone Wolfgramm added 12 points and Owen Lewis had 10.

All 11 suited-up players scored for Pinewood, which used a swarming defense to force St. Thomas More into 30 turnovers while limiting the visitors to 19 percent shooting for the night.

"I was really proud of all our guys tonight," said Pinewood coach Jason Peery. "They played with the sense of urgency they needed in order to do what we wanted to do."

Pinewood will attempt to repeat as section champs for the first time in school history. A victory over St. Francis-CCC will be doubly sweet for the Panthers, since the Sharks topped Pinewood in the 2010 finale by two points.

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