The Eastside Prep girls set a goal for themselves as they began the 2014-15 basketball season, and that was qualifying for the state championship game for the first time in school history.
Four previous times the Panthers had reached the CIF NorCal Division V finals, only to be turned away one game short of the state finals. A fifth time, however, proved to be the charm as top-seeded Eastside Prep held off No. 2 Valley Christian-Dublin, 36-28, in the NorCal title game Saturday at American Canyon High.
Reaching its goal this season took a little luck after Eastside Prep was placed in the Open Division for the Central Coast Section playoffs. Had the Panthers finished better than third, they would have continued their season in the Open Division.
That was the fate of Pinewood, which took second in the CCS Open Division and wound up losing its NorCal first-round game. Without Pinewood in the Division V playoffs for NorCals, the path was clear for Eastside Prep to achieve its goal. And, the Panthers took full advantage.
Eastside Prep (25-5) now will play SoCal champ La Jolla Country Day (17-11) for the Division V state championship on Friday at Haas Pavilion on the campus of the University of California in Berkeley at 10 a.m. La Jolla Country Day, which lost in last year's state finals to Pinewood, advanced with a 75-56 win over No. 2 Bishop's School.
Eastside Prep's senior class of Brije Byers, Destiny Graham and Chacitty Cunningham combined for 34 of their team's 36 points against VC-Dublin (31-4), which was held to four points after one period and eight points. It was the lowest winning point total in NorCal playoff history and one of the lowest combined scores ever.
Byers led the way with 19 points, the Vikings concentrated on stopping the 6-foot-2 Graham, who finished with nine points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Cunningham finished with six points and 10 rebounds. All three played for NorCal titles as freshmen and sophomores and now are 84-40 in their careers.
Despite having only six players, Eastside Prep stayed out of foul trouble and forced 23 turnovers, while holding VC-Dublin to 21 percent shooting from the floor. The Vikings never got closer than 26-20 in the fourth quarter.
Palo Alto saw its four-game win streak come to an end in a 3-0 nonleague loss to visiting San Ramon Valley on Saturday. The Vikings (8-2) had no hits in the game.
Menlo School bounced back from a tough road loss on Friday to defeat visiting Marin Catholic, 12-7, on Saturday. Marin Catholic is the reigning Marin Catholic Athletic League champion.
Despite being out-shot (35-20) and losing the draw-control battle (15-6), the Knights (3-2) controlled the ground balls and got nine points from sophomore Sophia Donovan, who had six goals and three assists. She finished off a 2-1 week by Menlo with 13 goals, five assists, 11 draw controls, nine caused turnovers and 10 contested ground balls.
Sophomore Indira Varma added three goals and one assist for Menlo with Kaitlin Frangione contributing two goals. Alena Stern had six saves in goal for the Knights, who dropped a 14-7 nonleague decision to host San Ramon Valley on Friday.
Menlo School saw its unbeaten season come to an end in the championship match of the 15th annual National Invitational High School Team Tennis Tournament in Newport Beach.
The top-seeded Knights (12-1) beat Horace Mann of New York to open the 16-team event, 7-1, and then Haverford of Pennsylvania, 7-1, on Friday. The invitational featured five singles and three doubles.
Menlo then defeated Central Coast Section rival Bellarmine, 6-2, in the semifinals Saturday.
That set up a finale against No. 2-seeded Torrey Pines of San Diego, which pulled off a 7-2 victory. In the finals, the teams played six singles and three doubles.
"It was a little too much to overcome, without our No. 3, 4 players," said Menlo coach Bill Shine. "I'm so proud of the team to do as well as it did."
Menlo played without Lane Leschly at No. 3 singles and Vikram Chari at No. 4. Leschly was sick on Friday and couldn't play. Shine sent Leschly home on Saturday. Chari had to miss the weekend trips for undisclosed reasons.
Gunther Matta went 6-1 in the four matches and "was the most impressive player of the weekend," said Shine.
Matta and fellow senior Victor Pham both were named to the all-tournament team.
"This was one of the most impressive performances of any team that I've ever had at this national tournament," said Shine. "They were next-man up mentality all weekend. This experience for the young guys will go a long way."
Track and field
Menlo School senior Lizzie Lacy highlighted local efforts at the annual St. Francis Invitational by winning the girls' mile with a school record of 5:04.28 on Saturday in Mountain View.
The time converts to a 5:02.52 for 1,600 meters, giving her the CCS lead. It was Lacy's second school mark in four days, following her record-breaking effort in the 3,000 to open the West Bay Athletic League season.
Gunn junior Gillian Meeks was second on Saturday in 5:06.68. Meeks came back with a second place in the 3,000 in 10:08.12 with teammate Emily Aiken finishing fourth in 10:29.69.
Gunn junior Maya Miklos finished second in the 300 hurdles in 44.28, Palo Alto's Anna Dukovic tied for second in the girls' high jump at 5-0, Menlo-Atherton's Kathryn Mohr was third in the pole vault at 10-9 and the Bears' Annalisa Crowe was third in the 800 in 2:19.50.
For the boys, Paly junior Eli Givens took the 100 in 11.04, Priory senior Ross Corey won the 800 in a CCS-leading 1:56.88, Menlo senior Paul Touma was second in the triple jump at 45-2 and M-A senior Adam Scandlyn was third in the mile in 4:26.32.
Paly sophomore Kent Slaney was fourth in the mile in 4:27.14 and Givens was fourth in the long jump at 20-5 1/2.