SHP boys grab control of WBAL race | January 24, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 24, 2014

SHP boys grab control of WBAL race

by Andrew Preimesberger

After starting the season with three straight losses, Sacred Heart Prep coach Tony Martinelli is probably happy with any victory his boys basketball team gets — whether it's a nail-biter or blowout.

He got the nail-biter on Tuesday as SHP junior James McLean sank the game-winning free throw with 1.5 seconds left to give the Gators a 47-46 West Bay Athletic League win over crosstown rival Menlo School.

The Gators improved to 5-0 (10-4 overall) and took sole possession of first place, while the Knights saw their four-game win streak end and fell to 4-1 (5-10 overall). SHP's win streak increased to eight games as the Gators avenged a pair of league losses to the Knights last season.

"We had to take care of it at home," Martinelli said. "If you want any chance of winning your league you gotta win at home. That was a good win."

SHP senior guard Casey McDonald got the crowd going when he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter, giving Sacred Heart a 15-12 lead.

Menlo forward Wes Miller made back-to-back layups to end the first half and cut the Gators' lead to 27-25 going into halftime. Miller had a solid game and finished 12 points.

Knights guard Bobby Roth sank a free throw to end the third quarter, tying the game at 36 going into the fourth quarter. The senior was clutch at the free-thrown line (8 of 10) and led all scorers with 18 points.

Roth came through for the Knights again and hit a runner over two defenders, giving Menlo the 46-45 lead with 50 seconds left in the game.

McLean, meanwhile, was big for the Gators all game long and came through again for Sacred Heart. With 1.5 seconds left on the clock, the junior went up for a 3-point shot and got fouled in the process. McLean made the first shot — tying the game — missed the second, and then made his last shot to seal the win. He finished with 14 points.

"That's kind of one of those moments you're always waiting for," said McLean. "You have to come in and be ready for it. It's always exciting to get that opportunity; you've got to make the most of it."

"It felt good because free throws have been an issue for us this year," said Martinelli. "He's a kid who takes it personally when he's missing and he just made it work."

Menlo hurt itself at the line by missing seven free throws.

In other WBAL action Tuesday night, host Pinewood (4-1, 12-3) remained tied for second place with Menlo following a 47-33 win over Eastside Prep while Priory posted a 66-50 win over host Crystal Springs.

Ryan Brice led Pinewood with 14 points with Nathan Beak adding 12. The Panthers held just a five-point lead at halftime before outscoring Eastside Prep in the third period, 20-7.

In Hillsborough, Priory senior Connor Bonfiglio poured in a career-high 30 points and sophomore Scotty Harris added 21 as the Panthers cruised to victory.

With senior Keesean Johnson leading the way with 15 points, Palo Alto strengthened its hold on second place in the SCVAL De Anza Division race with a 66-31 romp over visiting Saratoga on Wednesday night.

Johnson also pulled down six rebounds while junior Kevin Mullin had 13 points and four steals for the Vikings (3-1, 8-7). Senior Noah Phillips finished with 12 points seven rounds and six assists as Paly won for the third time in its past four games.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn's Chris Russell poured in 28 points, but the Titans fell behind by 11 points at halftime and never were able to make up the difference while dropping a 67-65 decision to host Fremont. Alex Gil-Fernandez added 13 points with Patrick Skelly scoring 12 for Gunn.

In the PAL South Division, host Menlo-Atherton (3-2, 10-6) won its second straight with a 52-34 win over Capuchino.


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