Menlo-Atherton has certainly enjoyed bathing in the “Purple Reign” of neighboring Sequoia High School
Winning championships at Sequoia is a reoccurring them for the M-A Bears this year. First, the M-A football team reveled against Lincoln-San Diego in a state championship bowl game held at Sequoia’s Terremere Field. Then, Tuesday night in the Sequoia gym, the M-A boys’ basketball team added to its school’s trophy case by capturing the Peninsula Athletic League tournament championship with a 67-43 win over Carlmont.
It was fitting guard Justin Anderson set the tone for the Bears. The junior was a standout defensive back for the M-A football team. And he got the basketball team roaring out of the gate Tuesday to help the Bears lead wire to wire.
“I love it,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a great season and it’s definitely not over. It’s always great to win.”
The championship marked M-A’s second all-time PAL tournament title, with its last coming in 2016. The Bears are assured to qualify for the Central Coast Section Open Division, marking the third time in four years they will be bracketed among the top eight teams in the section.
While sharpshooting guard Nick Tripaldi scored a game-high 15 points, it was Anderson who shined in all facets of the game. He totaled 13 points and five rebounds, and added three assists and two steals.
“He’s not a [PAL first-team all-league player], but we all know he’s a first-teamer,” M-A head coach Mike Molieri said. “His defense alone causes so much chaos out there. Unfortunately, our league sometimes looks at the offense. But we’ve still got defense, and that’s why we’re in the [CCS Open Division] again for the third time in four years.”
That chaos was created from Carlmont’s opening possession. Anderson nabbed an immediate takeaway. He ran the court and missed a defended fast-break shot at the other end, but senior Hearth Hooper was right there to elbow for the put-back. Then, with the Bears leading 10-7, Anderson would score on back-to-back possessions — first on a transition breakaway, then by grabbing a hustle offensive board off his own miss.
“We know we’re going to need a lot of energy,” Anderson said. “So, we try to bring a lot of energy in practice and, in games, it just carries over.”
J.D. Carson closed the quarter with a 3-pointer to stake the Bears to a 17-9 advantage. M-A would got on to shoot 9 of 18 from beyond the arc, and was a steady 47.3 percent from the field overall.
Tripaldi knocked down three 3s in the first half. Then in the third quarter, junior guard Trevor Wingo heated up, hitting three 3s in the period and converting a game-high four on the night to finish with 12 points.
“[Wingo] can shoot the ball,” Molieri said. “If he’s on, we’re going to give him the ball.”
Carlmont relied on its bench as well. Senior guard Sammy Bean subbed in and matched the game-high with 15 points. M-A’s pressure defense caused the Scots to commit 17 turnovers, though, and also held each of Carlmont’s starters to single-digit scoring.
M-A outrebounded Carlmont 34-24.
The win marks M-A’s third win over Carlmont in three matches this season. The Bears swept the two-game regular-season series, going down to the wire in the first matchup for a 65-62 win, then cruising to a 53-36 final in the rematch. Tuesday’s 25-point differential was larger than the two regular-season games combined.
“I just think they got better prepared for us individually,” Carlmont forward Jake Kennedy said. “That’s the difference maker.”
The PAL South Division has now accounted for five straight PAL boys’ tournament championships. This is the third time in four years the championship game has featured two teams from the PAL South.
“It’s really good,” Kennedy said of the competition in the PAL South. “I think it’s a lot better than the North. All the first-teamers, they’re all averaging 15 points a game, it’s crazy.”