Julio Lara/Daily Journal
It doesn’t matter how far along you are in a basketball season — there is never a bad time, or in this case too early of a time, to get a statement win.
The Half Moon Bay boys’ basketball team came into the 37th version of the Burlingame Lions Club tournament with every intention to do just that. With four of their five starters returning from last season’s highly successful team, the Cougars knew that a win Friday night in the tournament’s championship game against the host Panthers would speak volumes about their team as we inch closer and closer to Peninsula Athletic League play.
And while it took Half Moon Bay’s best survival efforts in the third quarter, the Cougars came away with a 66-53 win over Burlingame.
“It’s an early statement win,” said Half Moon Bay head coach Rich Forslund. “It says we can play with the very best. Hopefully, we’ll see them down the road with the county championship on the line.”
The Cougars received star efforts from their star players — in particular Corey Cilia, who scored 13 points in that pivotal third quarter and added 10 more in the fourth to out-duel Burlingame’s Frankie Ferrari.
Ferrari sat out the entire first half wearing street clothes but came on like gang-busters in the third quarter scoring 12 points while knocking down 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in those eight minutes. Ferrari’s return to the court energized the Burlingame team as a whole and a lead that was as big as 21 was down to six with two minutes left in the game.
But Cilia and company toughed it out while the Panthers got cold from the perimeter. He hit four big free throws down the stretch to ice it.
“We pressured the ball well,” Cilia said. “It’s something that killed us [Thursday] night although we came out with the win. This is a great win that gives us a lot of confidence going forward. We’re a good team, but we still have a long way to go.”
“With Frankie out, they don’t have the same kind of weapons,” Forslund said. “He’s the best player in the league so with him in there, you expect those kinds of things (like a comeback).”
With Ferrari out, the Cougar defense focused heavily on Nick Loew. Half Moon Bay suffocated the All-League center in the first half. Not only did Loew score just three points in the first half (all in the second quarter), but he rarely touched the ball and Enrico Nuno and Case DuFrane kept him to just four rebounds. The Cougars went on a 9-0 run to end the second quarter to push a five-point lead into 14 to end the half. Cilia scored 10 points in that first half.
But things changed in the second half as soon as Ferrari touched the ball. A couple of dribbles in, No. 4 elevated and knocked down his first 3. By the end of the third quarter, Half Moon Bay had increased its lead, but there was something in the air that said Burlingame was looking to make a big run.
The run was fueled by Justin Gutang. No. 23 scored four points in the third and added 13 in the fourth quarter. It was his And-1 play midway through the fourth quarter that got the Panthers to within six points the first time.
But as Burlingame got close, Cilia always had an answer. He finished with 33 points, making the all-tournament team in the process. Nuno, who scored 18 points in the championship game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.