Historic night for Menlo girls and Paye family in NorCals


It was perhaps appropriate that Menlo School senior Hannah Paye knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 52 seconds left to help secure a 48-47 victory over No. 3 St. Mary's (Albany) in a Division IV regional semifinal of the CIF State Basketball Championships on Tuesday night.

After all, Paye's aunt Kate provided similar moments 25 years ago while leading Menlo to a NorCal championship game.

Menlo coach John Paye was on the bench for both games, first coaching his sister (Kate) and now his daughter (Hannah). It's certainly a special time for the Paye family. Kate, in fact, was in the crowd along with a handful of former teammates Eileen Ha, Stephanie Nichols and Laurie Stucker.

In 1991, Kate led the Knights to a third straight NorCal Division V title and third consecutive state championship. This Saturday, Hannah will lead Menlo into its first NorCal finale in 25 years.

Second-seeded Menlo (21-7) will take on No. 1 Cardinal Newman (29-5) of Santa Rosa in the championship game Saturday at American Canyon High at 2 p.m. Cardinal Newman eliminated No. 4 Sacred Heart Prep, 69-32.

Menlo battled its way into the finals in a game that was up for grabs throughout.

"That game could've gone either way," said John Paye. "It was a typical March Madness type of event where you didn't know what was going to happen. You have to hand it to both teams to be in it in the last two minutes of the game and fortunately we came up with the big shot of Hannah."

With 52 seconds left in the fourth quarter, senior Mackenzie Duffner connected with Paye on the outside. Paye, with a hand in her face, shot it over the defender and Menlo took a 48-45 lead and momentum.

"I saw my teammate (Duffner) open turning and I saw the open gap and I knew that if I slid I had the open three so I took it," said Hannah Paye, who finished with a team-high 15 points. "It was really exciting, I don't think we've had this big of a crowd this year. It's always fun playing for a big crowd and getting hyped and getting everyone excited for you."

Both teams started slow on offense in the first quarter. Duffner scored the first basket of the game on a jumper with the clock at 4:50. St. Mary's took a 8-6 lead into the second quarter.

"I think everyone was a little bit nervous on both teams," said John Paye. "We did end up with 48 points, but it was kind of tension- filled."

The Knights' offense stepped it up in the second quarter when sophomore Mallory North found Olivia Pellarin for the layup and Menlo took the 19-16 edge going into halftime.

In the third quarter, Paye hit her second of three 3-pointers and the game was still close at 29-26 heading into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter started off with press defenses from both teams. Panthers forward Jasmine Smith converted the and-one play and St. Mary's took the 32-31 lead with just over six minutes to go.

Menlo junior De'Jeane Stine was huge for the Knights in the remaining four minutes in the game. The point guard scored seven points in 1:30, including one 3-pointer and one steal -- the Knights taking the lead on her corner trey, 44-42.

"She's doing that since the first day on campus here," said John Paye. "I can't say enough about her tenacity and also give us a pleasant surprise of hitting a couple of big baskets. With her defense and her scoring seven points in the fourth quarter was important as Hannah's big 3-pointer."

Panthers sophomore De'janne Evans tied the game when she nailed a 3-pointer from the corner and the game went to 45-45 with just under a minute left.

St. Mary's had a chance to take the lead with four seconds left and the ball. The Menlo defense forced a turnover and the Knights came away with the triumph.

"We were a little bit relieved we pulled this one out because we didn't play our best game," said John Paye. "That's kind of a sign of a good team, when you're able to win when you're not performing at your best."

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