Ready or not, the high school basketball league season is upon us following two months of postseason play that perhaps separated the contenders from the pretenders.
The Menlo-Atherton girls certainly look ready to defend their PAL South Division regular season and playoff titles following a solid 10-2 preseason. The Bears are already ahead of last year's 8-4 record after 12 games, that propelled them to a 24-7 overall mark and NorCal playoff appearance.
Menlo-Atherton tuned up for Wednesday's league opener with a 48-41 nonleague win over host Half Moon Bay on Saturday.
The game opened as a defensive struggle with the Cougars leading by two after the first quarter. In the second, M-A took an eight- point lead with Ilana Baer, Annalisa Crowe and Carly McLanahan hitting three-pointers.
The Bears pushed their lead to 16 near the end of the third, but the Cougars' Addison Walling hit four of her five 3-pointers in the second half to bring HMB within four points with two minutes remaining. M-A's Ilana Baer, who led the Bears with 14, made her free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
The Bears begin league play this week with a 5:30 p.m. game at Capuchino on Wednesday, followed by at home game against Sequoia on Friday at 6:15 p.m.
One of M-A's top players, meanwhile, is sitting out this season. Stella Kailahi, who averaged 11.9 points and 8.0 rebounds at Pinewood last season, transferred in with her freshman sister, Mele. Stella, a 5-10 sophomore, is sidelined after tearing an ACL during the summer. She is currently a team manager while rehabbing her injury in preparation to playing her junior year for the Bears.
The Palo Alto boys, meanwhile, also appear ready for their SCVAL De Anza Division opener this week following a 57-42 nonleague win at Saratoga on Saturday. Miles Tention tossed in 14 points and fellow junior Jack Simison added 13 for the Vikings (8-3), who outscored the Falcons (5-7) by 38-22 over the second and third periods.
Palo Alto, now 8-3, was 9-2 after its first 11 games last season but finished 7-5 in league play. The Vikings open division action Wednesday at Los Gatos at 7 p.m.
In other boys' action Saturday, Menlo-Atherton won the first half but lost the second and dropped a 55-49 nonleague decision at Half Moon Bay. The host Cougars (10-1) overcame a 28-14 halftime deficit to defeat the Bears (8-2).
M-A played tough first-half defense and held Half Moon Bay to seven points in each of the first two quarters. Eric Norton's 12 points and Christian Fioretti's eight led the Bears. In the second half, Half Moon Bay switched to a zone defense and the M-A struggled to keep its first-half momentum.
While M-A maintained a 40-31 lead after three quarters, the Cougars scored 24 fourth-quarter points while M-A struggled on offense and HMB pulled out the win.
Austin Hilton led the Cougars with 15 points while Norton had 15 for the Bears. Lucas Fioretti added nine points while Christian Fioretti and Blake Henry added eight points.
In San Mateo, Sacred Heart Prep had its lineup intact for the first time since the Gators' football team fell in the CIF Division III-A state finals. The added manpower, however, didn't translate into a victory as SHP (1-7) fell to host Serra, 56-41.
Mason Randall, who quarterbacked the Gators' football team, made his season debut with 13 points, as did Connor Moses, while tight end/linebacker Andrew Daschbach finished with seven.
SHP opens West Bay Athletic League action Tuesday against visiting Crystal Springs at 6:30 p.m.
In another WBAL opener Tuesday, Jason Peery will make his second debut as Pinewood's head coach when the Panthers visit Priory at 6 p.m. Peery takes over for Ola Dean, who was 3-5 in his first season after replacing last year's coach, Mani Messy.
Peery coached Pinewood from 2008-2012 and won Central Coast Section titles his final two seasons. Dean reportedly resigned on Dec. 28 and Peery was hired the following day.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys bounced back from a nonleague loss to Carlmont earlier in the week and posted a 2-0 soccer triumph over host Hillsdale on Saturday.
The teams battled to a scoreless tie in the first half before the Gators (3-3-2) go the eventual winning goal from Juan Rascon with AJ Hamer assisting. Hamer provided an insurance goal with a penalty kick created by Trevor Peay.
Menlo-Atherton's Chelsea Wilson, who was ranked No. 3 in the Central Coast Section last week at 111 pounds, took over the No. 1 spot by winning a title at the fourth annual Trojan Wrath Girls Tournament at Alisal High in Salinas on Saturday.
Wilson defeated the No. 2-ranked girl in CCS, Victoria Borrego of Terra Nova, in the championship match, 2-0. Borrego had just pinned CCS No. 1 Sheila Metz of Lynbrook.
Wilson finished 3-0 in the tournament. She held a 9-0 lead over Celeste Alonzo from Alisal in the quarterfinals match before pinning her with a half-nelson in the first period. In the semifinals, Wilson pinned Teagan Allen of Terra Nova with an arm-bar in the first period, setting up her championship win over Borrego, which saw Wilson reversing a leg-ride in the last minute of the third period.
M-A's Folashade Akinola pinned the No. 1-ranked CCS wrestler Sarah Aguilar in the semifinals at 160 pounds, but lost a 6-4 lead over Sydnie Thiesen in the last 15 seconds of their championship match. Folashade had previously defeated Thiesen in the Overfelt Tournament to secure the No. 1 ranking at 170 pounds.