James Beckwith’s baseline jumper under heavy defensive pressure from Matthew Marzano went in with 21 seconds left and provided the winning points Saturday in Menlo-Atherton’s 50-49 victory over Palo Alto.
“Give him a lot of credit for being willing to take that shot with all the risk,’’ M-A coach Mike Molieri said. “He’s a gamer.’’
Rallying from a five-point deficit at halftime, M-A had a 48-41 lead late in the fourth quarter before Palo Alto reeled off eight unanswered points on a 3-pointer by Anthony Yu, a fastbreak layup by Marvin Zou and went ahead on a left-side 3-pointer by Zou with 1:13 left.
M-A’s next possession ended on a missed free throw, but the Bears retained possession by getting a held ball on the rebound. Then Beckwith hit the big shot, a jumper with a hand in his face.
“At the end of the game even if I’ve been missing I have confidence to hit those kinds of shots,’’ Beckwith said.
“The kid made a great shot,’’ Palo Alto coach Rodney Tention said of Beckwith. “Matthew couldn’t have played defense on him any better.’’
Paly had time to respond, but Zou’s layup rolled off and then desperation efforts by Zou and Jackson Chryst in the final 2.5 seconds missed the mark.
“I think we’re understanding how hard we have to play to be successful,’’ Tention said. “We played real hard tonight and still lost. We need to eliminate the little things, the turnovers.’’
Palo Alto (7-6) got out in transition and put together a hot-shooting first half for a 31-26 lead at the break.
“They pushed tempo on us,’’ Molieri said. “We hadn’t seen that. We gave up 12 to 14 points in transition. I didn’t even attempt to press.’’
Tention, however, was not pleased with his team’s ball handling.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball,’’ he said. “We made way too many turnovers. You can’t do that on the road.’’
Chryst’s fastbreak basket put Paly up 33-26 at the start of the third quarter, but M-A went on an 11-4 run to draw even, 37-37, by the end of the quarter. Skyler Thomas scored off a pass from Will Beasley at the start of the fourth quarter to give M-A a 39-37 lead, its first lead since the first quarter.
Baskets by Beasley, Beckwith and Nick Tripaldi and a 3-pointer by Justin Anderson pushed M-A's lead to seven at 48-41, before Paly made its late charge.
Menlo-Atherton (8-3) was coming off three wins by comfortable margins and a championship at the Windsor Tournament. Nothing was easy about the win on Saturday against a natural local rival.
“Every team is going to go after us,’’ Molieri said. “We have a big X on our chest. It’s a significant win if they beat us.’’
Beckwith led M-A with 12 points. Beasley, Tripaldi and Heath Hooper had nine apiece. Yu scored 15 for Palo Alto. Wes Walters, a standout inside linebacker on the Paly football team, scored 12.
Tention who has moved Walters and Chryst, the quarterback on the Paly football team, into the starting lineup, said he likes what they have brought to the team.
“I like the toughness of the football guys,’’ Tention said. “Wes, he’s pushed them a little bit. He’s tough and he’s a nice ball player for us with that football mentality.’’
Paly, which won its SCVAL De Anza Division opener over Homestead on Friday, plays at Cupertino on Tuesday.
“We’re excited for league,’’ Tention said. “We’ve got to find a way to go 2-0 Tuesday night.’’
M-A, which won its league opener over Sequoia on Dec. 20, returns to PAL South Division play with a home game against Hillsdale on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.