Menlo-Atherton, who has played in the Open Division the past two years, last won a CCS title in 1993 and hopes to end the dry spell this weekend.
The Bears will play Silver Creek, a 52-39 winner over Sequoia in the second semifinal Wednesday at Evergreen Valley, for the CCS Division I title Saturday at Santa Clara University.
Sacred Heart Prep avenged its loss to Half Moon Bay in last year's CCS Division IV championship with a 56-35 victory on Tuesday and looks to win its second CCS title in three years Saturday when it meets fellow WBAL member Notre Dame-Belmont at 1 p.m. at Santa Clara University.
Castilleja, which beat Pacific Collegiate, 40-31, in the Division V semifinals, is making its first appearance in the CCS title game in four years, taking on defending CCS Division V champion Priory at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Harker School in San Jose.
The Panthers get a chance to defend their title after beating St. Francis-Watsonville 68-55 in another semifinal.
M-A made it 3-0 this season against Carlmont, but this one was far from easy. Carlmont rallied from a 10-point deficit to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter before M-A regrouped and pulled out a 51-44 victory.
M-A (21-8) won the two previous meetings relatively easily -- 44-27 and 49-33 in Peninsula Athletic League South Division play.
But this time Carlmont had 28 points and a two-point lead at halftime.
M-A outscored the Scots 15-3 to start the third quarter and opened a 41-31 lead. But Carlmont scored the final three points of the third quarter and the first eight of the fourth quarter, for an 11-0 run in all, and a 42-41 lead.
And immediately after Carlmont took the lead M-A post player Greer Hoyem fouled out, with 3:27 left. Suddenly the Bears not only trailed but were without their leading scorer.
That's when Carly McLanahan stepped up.
She had only two points to that point in the game, but knocked down a 3-pointer to put M-A back on top, Then after Carlmont tied it 44-44, McLanahan hit another 3 -- this one a bank shot as the shot clock was about to expire.
"There was one second left, I knew I had to shoot,'' McLanahan said. "I got lucky. And ultimately I think that was a pretty big play in the game.''
Carlmont was unable to respond and then McLanahan scored on a drive to put M-A up by five. Ericka Fischer closed out the scoring with two free throws and the Bears had survived.
"Saturday there's only two teams left,'' M-A coach Markisha Coleman said. "I'm very happy to be one of them.''
Hoyem led M-A (21-8) with 14 points. Fischer scored 13, making three 3-pointers. Sophomore Linnea Lindblom also knocked down three from behind the arc for all 9 of her points. And McLanahan scored 10 with 8 coming in the final two minutes.
"Big-time players make it happen in the end,'' Coleman said.
Sammy Wong hit two key 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter and Castilleja stepped up its defensive intensity en route to the victory over Pacific Collegiate at Alma Heights Christian.
Wong finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Gators (13-14).
Defense was the key for the Gators, who have won a season-best three straight. They held Pacific Collegiate to 13 points in the first half and then allowed 15 in third quarter before revving it up again and held the Pumas to three points in the fourth.
"Coming out of the half I told them no matter what, defense would carry us," Castilleja coach Mace McGinn said. "The intensity needs to be there. We needed to get in their face. Niki (Chen) especially stepped it up."
For the first 4:48 of the fourth, neither team could punch a hole in the others' defense. The teams each made a single free throw over that span.
Enter Wong, who nailed a pair of 3-pointers less than a minute apart to give Castilleja some breathing room. The Pumas never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Ila Lane has been working on her shooting and extending her range. It's helped push her game to a higher level.
The 6-foot-4 junior was in her comfort zone Wednesday night, scoring 32 points and grabbing 17 rebounds to help top-seeded Priory reach its second consecutive Central Coast Section Division V championship game.
"For me, I get into my head and stop trusting myself," Lane said. "I had to get out of that space and start shooting even if I think it's a mistake."
The smartest thing the Panthers (12-14) did all night was tossing the ball inside to Lane. Of her 12 baskets, eight were assisted and the other four were offensive rebounds.
"That's something we've preached all year," Priory coach Buck Mathews said. "They know what is at stake. You feed your best player."
Lane averages close to 20 points and 15 rebounds a game this season and the Panthers know a good thing when its standing in the paint, towering over the opposition.
Lane has exceeded her shooting range to mid-range jumpers and she drove from the foul line once just to show she could so. Lane is definitely more agile and better conditioned.
"She played awesome," Mathews said. "She's been working hard and it's finally coming together. She can shoot 3s too. She's done it in practice. I don't think she has scratched the surface."
Priory's season has had a mixture of bad luck, a few injuries and one of the toughest preseason schedules one could put together.
"That's what has prepared us for playing now," Mathews said. "We got beat up but we pulled through."
The biggest setback was an ankle injury to team leader Tatiana Reese, the only senior on the team. She hasn't had the best of seasons and yet is resilient and always manages to be in the middle of the action.
Reese was hurt while the Panthers were trying to navigate a schedule worthy of a junior college. And then she was injured again and had to wear a mask on Wednesday night. She got into early foul trouble and was fairly limited. She managed eight points, six assists and three rebounds.
Several others missed games throughout the season and sophomore Annabelle North (five rebounds, an assist and a block) left Wednesday's game prematurely with an apparent ankle injury.
"It's been an odd dynamic," Lane said. "We've had players in and out of the lineup, not everybody has been together. But now we're coming together."
Priory used its significant height advantage to limit the Sharks scoring opportunities. The Panthers had three players with at least eight rebounds. Gabby Ruiz and Lala Niu joined the board party. Niu also scored 12 points.
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