The Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs in basketball is something quite different. It is not the Peninsula Athletic League nor the West Bay Athletic League.
For first-time entrants, the Open Division can be quite daunting. Perhaps that's why the Menlo-Atherton boys and girls plus the Menlo School girls all fell in their first-ever appearances on Friday night, and why the Pinewood girls didn't.
The Panthers have played in the Open Division since it began and have taken on the section's best. Thus, taking on No. 7 St. Francis (16-9) at Gunn High probably felt just like any other game as No. 2 Pinewood (21-4) posted a 69-59 triumph.
The Panthers (21-4) will play No. 3 Sacred Heart Cathedral (16-8) in Tuesday's semifinals at Milpitas High at 6 p.m. The game is a rematch of last season's Open Division championship game, won by SHC.
Pinewood will need to be more consistent on defense after letting a 55-29 third-quarter lead nearly disappear in the final period. The Panthers also held a 39-21 halftime lead.
"Played well for 20 minutes," said Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler. "The last 12 (minutes) was below our standard. We're going to need a full 32 to win versus the competition coming up."
Junior Akayla Hackson led Pinewood with 16 points with freshman Hannah Jump adding 14 after nailing four 3-pointers. Senior Chloe Eackles had one of her better games in recent weeks with 14 points while junior Erin Poindexter-McHan added 13.
"The three freshmen in rotation (Jump, Klara Astrom and Kaitlyn Leung) got their feet wet, for the big games to come," said Scheppler.
At Wilcox High, the Menlo-Atherton girls saw their 22-game win streak end in a 49-42 loss to No. 4 seed Valley Christian (18-7). the No. 5 Bears (25-3) will host No. 8 Los Gatos (18-6) in the consolation semifinals on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The Wildcats fell to No. 1 Mitty, 78-40.
Menlo-Atherton watched Valley Christian jump to a 9-1 lead as the Bears quickly learned that the CCS Open Division is not the PAL. However, the Bears learned fast and, after three Carly McLanahan 3-pointers, briefly took the lead early in the second quarter.
The Warriors' Caitlin Keding hit her third 3-pointer as Valley Christian extended its lead to nine at the half. In the third, the guards dominated as the Bears' Ilana Baer scored four and had two steals while the Warriors' Emily Ellington added seven points.
In the fourth quarter, the Bears made a run and closed the gap to three points on six consecutive defensive stops and four points each from Greer Hoyem and Megan Sparrow. With 44 seconds remaining, McLanahan was blatantly fouled on a potential game- tying three, but did not get the call. The Warriors' Kyanna Davis hit four consecutive foul shots and put the game away.
At Gunn High, No. 6 Menlo School (19-6) grabbed a 24-22 halftime lead against No. 3 Sacred Heart Cathedral but couldn't maintain the margin and dropped a 62-47 decision. Menlo will host St. Francis on Tuesday in a consolation semifinal at 4 p.m.
Junior Sam Erisman led Menlo with 15 points and senior Hannah Paye added 11, but the rest of the Knights struggled on offense against the tall and talented Irish.
SHC made nine of 24 from the field in the first two quarters, but heated up after halftime with a 15-for26 effort that saw the Irish outscore the Knights, 40-23, over the final two periods. IImar'I Thomas, the West Catholic Athletic League Co-Player of the Year, scored 14 of her game-high 25 points in the third and fourth quarters for SHC.
At Piedmont Hills High in San Jose, the Menlo-Atherton boys made their first foray into the Open Division and battled perennial power Mitty fairly even before dropping a 47-42 decision. The No. 4-seeded Bears (25-3), who had their 17-game win streak ended, will host No. 8 Santa Cruz (21-6) in a consolation semifinal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
While Mitty came in seeded only No. 5 with a lukewarm 13-11 record and with its best player (Ben Kone) sidelined by injury, the Monarchs overcame a 24-22 halftime deficit by attempting 12 more free throws and making eight more to secure the first-round triumph.
Blake Henry led M-A with 13 points and fellow senior Christian Fioretti added 11. The Bears made just four 3-pointers, three by Fioretti.