The Menlo-Atherton boys basketball team was pretty darn good last season. The Bears went 24-5 and advanced to the semifinals of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.
So it’s a scary thought for M-A opponents to consider: if Friday’s outing against Granite Bay is any indication the Bears are considerably more athletic and deeper than they were last season.
They trailed 13-6 after one quarter only to go on a 21-0 run to end the half and went on to outscore Granite Bay 54-11 over the final three quarters in a 60-24 victory in the DJ Frandsen Tournament at Bellarmine.
M-A will play the host Bells in the title game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Bellarmine won by a very similar blowout score in the early game Friday, 62-23 over Palo Alto. The Vikings will play Granite Bay in the third-place game at 6 p.m.
M-A (3-0) came out a little too psyched up and out of sync in the first quarter. But starting in the second quarter the Bears turned up the defensive intensity with devastating results. They outscored Granite Bay 24-2 in the second quarter to take a 30-15 lead at halftime. And then they scored the first nine points of the third quarter to make it a 30-0 run.
Justin Anderson and Skyler Thomas led the way defensively, disrupting Granite Bay ball handlers and forcing turnover after turnover. Anderson, a standout defensive back on the M-A football team, has given a verbal commitment to play college football at Washington State.
Thomas is another defensive back who played a lot as a sophomore before missing most of his just-completed junior season due to a shoulder injury. In fact the M-A hoops team can put a lineup on the floor with an entire secondary when they bring Jeremiah Earby and Treavon Norton off the bench to join Anderson and Thomas.
Talk about a bunch of ball hawks. M-A forced Granite Bay into 1 of 10 shooting and 12 turnovers in that 24-2 second quarter and 33 turnovers in all for the game.
“Our blueprint is to go 100 percent all the time on defense,’’ M-A coach Mike Molieri said.
M-A’s aggressiveness attacking the basket translated into 20 of 27 foul shooting. Granite Bay didn’t attempt a free throw the entire game.
Thomas had a team-high 10 points and seven rebounds, but the Bears were ultra balanced with 12 players scoring.
M-A will be in for a much tougher challenge against Bellarmine (4-0), which looked to practically be in midseason form in the win over Palo Alto. The Bells shot 50 percent in the first half and then upped it to 60 percent (9 of 15) in the third quarter in extending their lead to 53-16. A running clock was used in the fourth quarter.
For Palo Alto (1-1) it was a very unfavorable matchup in the team’s second game of the season and first time on the court after an 11-day layoff.
Ryan Purpur led Paly with nine points.