While the Peninsula Athletic League’s South Division may be a tossup this season, in the North Division, there is an overwhelming favorite: Half Moon Bay.
The Cougars are the defending South Division champ and there are high expectations around the program this season. Coach Rich Forslund has already declared the Open Division of the Central Coast Section playoffs as the main goal and they are not expected to be seriously challenged by the rest of the division.
That’s leaves the rest of the division to battle for second place and a handful of teams are poised to duke it out. While the chasm between Half Moon Bay and the rest of the division remains wide, the difference between second and seventh will be razor thin.
The following is a look at the North Division, in alphabetical order. All records are through Saturday, based on results posted on MaxPreps.com
El Camino (0-9)
A year ago, the Colts were putting together a Northern California tournament team, taking El Cerrito to the wire before losing in the Nor Cal opener.
The Colts graduated nearly every player of significance from that team and a new coach is charged with guiding them through a rebuilding period this season.
The Colts have taken a pounding in several games during the preseason, but they can hang their hat on the fact their most competitive games have come against PAL competition. The dropped a five-point decision to Carlmont and seven-point loss to Aragon.
Half Moon Bay (9-1, M-A Saturday)
This is the year for the Cougars. Coming off its second-straight 20-win season and second-straight Central Coast Section Division IV title game, Half Moon Bay has the experience and talent to make 2014 a special year.
With four of five starters returning from last year’s PAL North Division championship, and 10 returners who saw significant playing time last season, the Cougars are head and shoulders better than the rest of the division.
Senior center Rico Nuño will be in the running for player of the year honors and will challenge Burlingame’s Nick Loew for title of best post player in the PAL. Nuño has continued to grow, adding a dribble-drive aspect to his game. He can put the ball on the floor and take defenders off the dribble. He can even step out and knock down 3-pointers. Add in the sharp-shooting prowess of shooting guard Corey Cilia and the Cougars have as good an inside-out tandem in the league. Case DuFrane, a junior, is developing into a nice third option, averaging just under eight points per game.
Half Moon Bay’s biggest tests this season have come against local competition, having beaten Menlo-Atherton and Menlo School by a combined five points. They also had a difficult time with Aragon and Burlingame.
The Indians have been mostly solid in the preseason and with a few breaks could have a few more wins. They have been competitive in all but a couple games. They proved they can play with teams in the PAL, suffering a three-point loss to Terra Nova and beating Capuchino by seven.
Jefferson has already equaled its win total from a season ago and can only improve on last year’s 2-8 league mark.
The Sharks are in the running for most improved team in the PAL. After winning only one game last season, the Sharks appeared to have turned it around this season.
They opened the year with a couple of blowout losses, but then ripped off three wins in a row.
They have only three returning players, including senior forward Nick Phinn and senior guard Jason Ghirarduzzi. Matthew Bonilla, a 6-1 wing player, enters his sophomore year with a year of varsity experience under his belt. Look for freshman guard Isiah Margate to get plenty of run this season, while the addition of 6-4 forward/center Miguel Contreras gives the Sharks some beef in the paint.
South San Francisco (4-5)
The Warriors have played one of the more rugged preseason schedules, facing the likes of Los Gatos, St. Patrick-St. Vincent and Berkeley – and it remains to be seen if those tough matchups help in PAL play. South City does own a win over San Mateo, so the Warriors should, at the very least, be competitive most nights.
Last season’s 7-15 squad (3-9 PAL North) was senior-heavy, so the Warriors have only four returning players in junior guard Eric Watkins, along with senior wings Alex Lew, Derrick Lim and Andre Diosmito.
The Warriors do have an influx of young talent that should help this season and into next. Romel Greene is a sophomore forward and Claudio Perez is a freshman post player.
Terra Nova (5-6)
If Half Moon Bay stumbles, Terra Nova could be the team to take advantage. The always rugged Tigers have lost three in a row, but they are 3-1 against teams from the PAL, including a 49-46 win over North rival Jefferson.
The Tigers are one of the more physical teams in the PAL and they are not afraid of contact. David Smathers, Sean Gregg, Sydney Golden and Dominic DeSouza are all 6-foot and over, and 200 pounds or better. DeSouza clocks in at 6-7, 265.
All told, the Tigers feature 10 players 6-foot or taller.
Jaylend Jones provides the spark offensively from his guard position. There may be no faster player in the PAL and Jones has the skills to take advantage of it on the court.
The Rams could be in for a long year after going 23-5, 9-3 in North Division play and capturing the PAL tournament title a season ago. Forget the nine losses, the important number is four: that’s the number of PAL teams the Rams have faced this preseason – and those are five of their nine losses. Granted, all four were against teams from the PAL South, and while the Rams were competitive in all four contests, they could not get over the hump.
Westmoor graduated 10 from last season’s squad, including all three captains and most of its starting lineup. They do return five players from that team, including juniors Alton Chen, Bruce Newbeck and Toby Mak, all who played varsity as sophomores last year. A pair of senior returners – guard Hargel Magante and Cameron post player Cameron Cook – will have to provide senior leadership.