The annual Serra-Burlingame boys’ basketball was your typical rivalry affair Friday night in Burlingame.
A sold-out crowd and the student sections were in full voice 15 minutes before the opening tip.
What wasn’t typical was the final score. For only the second time in the last decade, Burlingame came out on top, holding off the Padres 60-57.
“Helluva game,” said Burlingame coach Pete Harames. “I thought our defense was awesome.”
Burlingame guard Frankie Ferrari led all scorers with 24 points, but it was the play of sophomore post player Bassel Mufarreh in the third quarter that proved pivotal. With starting center Nick Loew on the bench after picking up four first-half fouls, it was Mufarreh who came up with some big plays. He pulled down three rebounds and scored on a pair layups that helped Burlingame (5-1 overall) take a 41-35 lead with 3:05 left in the third quarter after the teams were tied at halftime.
“Bassel is coming on as a sophomore,” Harames said. “That was the turning point.”
Added Ferrari: “He was gutsy. He filled a big role tonight.”
Burlingame took a 60-57 lead with 23 seconds left following a pair of free throws from Justin Gutang, who finished with eight points. But Serra (4-1) had two chances to force the tie. Sean Watkins threw the ball away with seven seconds to go, and after Loew missed a pair of free throws that would have iced it for the Panthers, the Padres had one last chance, but Danny Mahoney’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off and the celebration began for the Burlingame faithful.
“We didn’t shoot well,” said Serra coach Chuck Rapp. “We’re going to live and die by the 3 (this season). … We’re not ready to win this game yet.”
The game was close the entire way, with neither team leading by more than a few points. Burlingame had the largest lead of the night, 45-35, late in the third quarter, but the Padres cut it to 45-39 going into the fourth quarter.
Early on, neither team could find much of an offensive groove as both teams were whistled for a combined 24 fouls in the first half.
Gutang kept the Panthers in the game early as Ferrari struggled to find his range. Gutang scored the first three buckets for Burlingame, but a baseline jumper from Mahoney, who finished with a team-high 18 points, gave Serra a 10-8 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter flowed much better with the teams combining for 46 points. A pair of free throws from Trevor Brown, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, put the Padres up 13-10, but a 3-point play from Loew tied the game for the Panthers.
Ferrari, meanwhile, started heating up. He scored his first basket of the game on a dribble-drive layup. He then knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 16-13 advantage.
His third 3 of the quarter put the Panthers up 32-30 with 45 seconds left in the first half, but Seth Bartlett tied it on a layup as time expired.
Ferrari had 15 points at halftime — all of which came in the second quarter.
“I knew it was early,” Ferrari said of his slow start. “I was getting good looks, they just weren’t going in.”
In the third quarter, Burlingame made its push. After Brown made one of two free throws to put Serra up 33-32, the Panthers went on a 13-2 run. Ferrari had four points during the surge, as did Mufarreh. Kevin Abuyaghi added a 3-pointer and Evan Struck’s putback gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the night, 45-35.
Abuyaghi opened the final period by knocking down a 3-pointer as he was nudged to the floor by the defender to put Burlingame up 48-39, but the Padres responded with their biggest push of the night. Brown hit a reverse layup to ignite a 9-3 run as Serra closed the gap to 51-48.
Burlingame responded with a jumper from Ferrari, one of two free throw from Loew and a spinning layup from Jack Larratt that pushed the Panthers lead to 56-50 with 2:10 to play.
Serra had one last gasp. Watkins drained a 3 and following a Burlingame turnover, Watkins converted a layup to cut the Padres deficit to just one, 56-55, with 1:08 to play.
The Padres, however, could not complete the rally as the Panthers held them off down the stretch.
“Give Burlingame credit,” Rapp said. “They made one more play than we did.”