The Peninsula Athletic League boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments get begin Wednesday and a champion will be crowned Saturday night.
First-round games will played at the home of the higher seeds, while the semifinals (Wednesday) and the championship games are at Capuchino.
On the boys’ side, it appears Burlingame, the No. 1 team in the PAL South, and Half Moon Bay, the top seed from the North, are on a collision course for the finals. Considering both teams are a combined 24-0 in PAL play, anything less than a meeting in the title game would be considered a major upset.
But both need to focus on the task at hand to guarantee a spot in the finals. Half Moon Bay opens against Sequoia (8-4 PAL, No. 4 South), while Burlingame takes on Westmoor (7-5 PAL, No. 4 North). Half Moon Bay thumped the Rams twice during the regular season, while Burlingame hammered Sequoia in their only meeting, so both the Cougars and Panthers should easily advance to the semifinals.
That’s when things could get a little dicey. Assuming “the chalk” — the higher seeds — advance, Half Moon Bay should prepare for a meeting with Mills (No. 2 South), while Aragon (No. 3 South) could be Burlingame’s opponent. Mills has played Burlingame tough in a pair of league games this season and Burlingame needed a huge performance from Frankie Ferrari to beat the Dons in overtime earlier this year. That should mean both Half Moon Bay and Burlingame will have to work to make it into the title game.
Assuming both squads get there, there could be a revenge factor working for the Panthers. Half Moon Bay handed Burlingame one of its three losses of the season in the finals of the Burlingame Lions Club tournament, 66-53. In that game Dec. 13, HMB shooting guard Cory Cilia went off, scoring a season-high 33 points. More importantly, center Rico Nuño outplayed his counterpart Nick Loew, outscoring him 18 to 7.
Ferrari, who was battling a back/hip injury, was held to just 16 points, a season low.
Since then, both Ferrari and Loew have picked up their games.
Again, assuming both Burlingame and Half Moon Bay play for the PAL championship, the winner should get the nod for the Central Coast Section Open Division — a goal both teams have had since the beginning of the season.
While the boys’ tournament has a pair of clear-cut favorites, the girls’ side appears a lot more wide open. For the second year in a row, Westmoor ran the table in PAL North Division play and is now 22-0 in PAL play the last two years. The Rams are the No. 1 seed in the North. Carlmont, led by Anisah Smith, is the No. 1 team from the South.
Westmoor, however, could have a battle on its hands in the first round with Menlo-Atherton, the No. 4 seed from the South. The Bears have one of the best inside-outside tandems in freshman center Ofa Slli and point guard Emma Heath. If both are on top of their game, M-A is capable of beating anyone in the tournament.
Carlmont opens against Half Moon Bay and while on paper it looks like a mismatch, the Scots go as Smith goes. She is the PAL’s leading scorer, but if she has an off night, the Scots are imminently beatable.
On top of that, Mills (No. 2 South) and Hillsdale (No. 3 South) have both proven to be tough matchups and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either one of the win two games in a row to advance to the championship game.
Granted, there is a lot of assuming on my part in breaking down the tournament, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks to know these things.
If you needed any more evidence that soccer is the toughest sport to handicap, look no further than the Serra soccer team. The Padres, which finished second in the West Catholic Athletic League regular-season standings with just one loss, were stunned in the first round of the WCAL tournament Saturday.
The Padres were the No. 2 team in the bracket and faced No. 7 Valley Christian in the first round. Serra outscored the Warriors 8-1 in two regular-season games, beating them 6-0 in the first round, but holding on for a 2-1 win in the second meeting.
Saturday, the teams finished regulation and 20 minutes of overtime tied at 2, before the Warriors pulled off the upset 6-5 in penalty kicks.
The loss shouldn’t affect the Padres’ seeding too much when the CCS brackets are announced this weekend. They should still get a top-5 seed. But it also shows Serra — or any other team for that matter — can’t overlook an opponent.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.