The West Bay Athletic League boys' basketball race will come down to the final regular-season game, but Pinewood can celebrate an outright title instead of a shared one that evening.
On a night that began with Pinewood and Sacred Heart Prep tied for first place, it ended with the Panthers moving into sole possession of the top spot with a 54-52 victory over visiting Priory.
"Not sure that it was a surprise, because both those teams (SHP and Harker) are tough teams and are very well-coached," said Pinewood coach Mani Messy. "Our league records don't mean much. Anybody can beat anyone, especially as we near the end of the season where every team is trying to make one last push to improve their season."
Priory was doing just that against Pinewood as the teams swapped the lead throughout. Pinewood finally moved in front when junior Ryan Brice hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute to play.
Priory missed on a few last-second possessions and Pinewood held on for the victory, improving to 12-1 in league (20-3 overall) with only Thursday's game at Harker standing in the way of the outright WBAL title.
"Our team takes it one game at a time," Messy said. "After we play our last game on Thursday, whatever the outcome is, we will assess it then shortly and try and look ahead to our next challenge in the postseason.
"I am very proud of my team this year. They have worked extremely hard and a league title would be deserving for all their hard work. But, in my mind, they deserve more."
That would be a Central Coast Section title. Pinewood has won the past three crowns, last year under Messy in his first season and the other two under Jason Peery. The Panthers also played in the 2010 title game, losing to St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic.
"I'm not sure yet about (our) CCS seeding and will find out Sunday," Messy said. "I think our body of work would suggest that (a No. 1 seed), but you never know.
Brice finished with 17 points while Greg Naumann led the way with 18. Priory senior Connor Bonfiglio led all scorers with 21 points. Scott Harris added 15 points for Priory, his final four giving his team a 52-51 lead.
In Atherton, SHP lost a share of first place with its upset loss to Harker. The Gators fell to 11-2 and 16-7 after the Eagles poured in on in the third quarter. Sophomore Mason Randall led the Gators with 15 points while James McLean added 13.
"(We) Shot the ball poorly and in the second half combined that with not getting back on 'D' and giving up way too many transition hoops," said SHP coach Tony Martinelli. "Poor effort from the Gators. Disappointing way to lose a league title . . . at home . . . giving up 71 points."
In Sunnyvale, Menlo School pulled off a winner in another nail-biter while topping King's Academy, 53-48, in WBAL action. Four of the Knights' past five games have been decided by five points or less. With one game left, Menlo improves to 9-4 in league and 10-13 overall.
Menlo and Kings were knotted at 48 with 2:30 left in the game. Guard Bobby Roth sank a big 3-pointer and Menlo jumped ahead with about a minute left.
"It was a gutsy performance towards the end," Menlo coach Delandro Leday said. "Bobby's shot was big as we've dedicated some time to improving our shooting . . . since our loss to Pinewood."
Menlo jumped out to a 20-6 lead after the first period, with Ryan Young getting seven of his 14 points in that quarter.
"The first quarter was probably our best basketball this season as we moved the ball and just played with a level of energy that I knew we were capable," Leday said.
Roth scored a team-high 17 and had four steals. Wes Miller added 13 on 4-of-6 shooting, along with a team-high eight rebounds. Young also contributed five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
The Eastside Prep at Crystal Springs game was not reported.
Castilleja's school-record 10-game win streak came to an end on Tuesday evening in downtown San Jose with a 55-47 loss at Notre Dame-San Jose in the second round of the WBAL tournament.
The Gators (17-9) were playing their eighth game in two weeks and it showed, as they looked a half- step slow in all phases of the game.
Castilleja never led and trailed, 21-18, at the half and 39-36 after three quarters. But, thanks to 12 second-half points from both Yasmeen Afifi and Paige Vermeer, the Gators finally pulled even at 41 late in the fourth quarter.
The Regents answered with a pair of threes, and Castilleja could get no closer when NDSJ converted last-minute free throws. Afifi finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, and now has over 600 boards in her career. Vermeer added 13 points and seven boards along with four assists -- despite being saddled with four fouls for the third straight game.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, senior Camille Steger scored 12 points and Gunn improved to 6-5 in the division (7-7 overall) with a 48-42 victory over host Mountain View on Tuesday night. Zoe Zwerling added 11 points and fellow senior Sarah Longyear contributed 10. The Titans wrap up their regular season on Friday by hosting first-place Wilcox on Senior Night at 6:15 p.m.
The Chargers improved to 11-0 in the division with a 53-34 win over visiting Palo Alto (5-6, 11-11) Freshman Lauren Koyama hit a trio of 3-points to lead the Vikings with nine points. Paly wraps up its regular season on Friday night at home against Los Gatos at 6:15 p.m.
Menlo-Atherton will be seeking an at-large berth for the upcoming CCS playoffs following a 0-0 deadlock with host Hillsdale in PAL Bay Division action Tuesday. The Bears are 6-4-3 in league (21 points) and have no chance of catching the top three with only Thursday's home match against first-place Woodside (9-2-2) remaining.
M-A's road woes continued at Hillsdale as the Bears (10-4-5 overall) remained winless in their past six road matches. M-A has won only once away from home, that coming to last-place Sequoia. Hillsdale, meanwhile, was a team the Bears defeated by 5-2 at home earlier in the season.
M-A dominated the first half and managed to out-shoot the Knights, 8-3. A beautiful goal scored on a header from M-A freshman Katie Guenin after receiving a cross was called back due to an offsides call.
In the second half, it was Hillsdale that got off to a fast start and dominated possession. The wind came up and favored the Knights, who hammered M-A with eight shots that forced six saves from junior keeper Jacqueline Foody. The Bears came to life toward the end of the second half and finally got off a few shots. Guenin had several great goal-scoring opportunities, but was taken down twice in the box with no fouls called.
In nonleague action, Palo Alto rolled to a 5-0 victory over visiting King's Academy, the defending CCS Division III champion.
The win was a good way to celebrate Senior Day as Jess Branson, Sunny Lyu, Megan Tall and Julia Kwasnick wrapped up their regular-season careers.
Branson took five shots in the first 10 minutes, but it would take Palo Alto (10-4-5) 23 minutes to crack the King's Academy defense. When the Vikings did, they struck three times in three minutes.
Aoi Sugihara scored unassisted from 25 yards out with a ball just over the goalie's outstretched arms for a 1-0 lead. Just after that, Natalie Maloney subbed in and immediately contributed when Alison Lu fed her a pass inside the 18-yard box that Maloney promptly put in for Paly's second goal. Lu was quickly rewarded for her assist when Katie Foug passed to her at 10 yards out and Lu scored for a 3-0 match.
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Jacey Pederson stole the ball away at 35 yards out and, after some dazzling footwork and ball control, laced a shot past the goalie for a 4-0 lead that Paly would ride to intermission.
Two minutes into the second half, Tall earned a corner for Palo Alto. After the ball-in from Sugihara was deflected out by the goalie, Maloney returned the volley, scoring from 15 yards out.
Paly got solid play from three goalies -- Sarah Lim (who played the first half), Kelly Branson (who played 31 minutes of the second half), and Megan Valencia (who finished).