The first half was competitive. Then the Menlo School girls basketball team blew the game wide open in the third quarter and went on to a 72-48 victory Monday at Valley Christian.
Menlo (2-0) had a six-point lead at halftime, 35-29, before outscoring the Warriors by an incredible 20-0 count in the third quarter.
The Knights made their first nine shots of the quarter before finally missing their last two. Valley Christian missed all 11 shots it attempted and also committed six turnovers.
“We have really worked on our defense,’’ said point guard Avery Lee. “110 percent, every time, every person. Get on the ground, go after the ball.’’
Lee was off on her shooting much of the game, but ignited that third-quarter run by getting out in the open court and dishing to her teammates.
Sophomore center Sharon Nejad started the run by scoring off a pass from Lee. Coco Layton hit back-to-back 3-pointers, the second a bank shot, both on assists from Lee. The junior point guard proceeded to take the scoring duties in her own hands with baskets on the break, and on a drive. She passed to Maeia Makoni for a hoop, Nejad scored inside, and then it was Lee with two more fastbreak layups to conclude the scoring blitz.
“That was a lot of fun, running the floor, being the floor general, helping everyone, making sure everyone is communicating,’’ Lee said.
Nejad absolutely dominated inside and finished with game-highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds. Makoni, who helped Menlo set the tone early by scoring the team’s first eight points, knocking down a pair of 3s, had 18 points and seven rebounds. Lee also scored 18 along with five assists in that third-quarter run alone. Layton scored 11. Those four players combined for all of the team’s 72 points.
Menlo won the state Division II championship last season and has everybody back from that team.
“We’re not taking anything for granted,’’ Lee said. “We have to keep working and getting better.’’
The win over Valley Christian follows a 69-34 drubbing of Cosumnes Oaks in the opener, but the Knights are in for a big-time test Wednesday at Mitty, a big step up in the level of competition.
“It’ll be a challenge, it’ll be good for us,’’ Makoni said. “Our team is certainly looking forward to that.’’
“We’ve been getting ready for that game,’’ Lee said. “They’re a great team. Whatever happens we will give it our best.’’