The third-place game of the first preseason, pre-holiday basketball tournament usually does not offer up much drama.
Many times, coaches are still trying to evaluate players in different lineup combinations and in different situations, with winning the game almost being secondary.
But the third-place game of the annual Mills High School Shootout was not your run-of-the-mill matchup. Not when Peninsula Athletic League rivals meet which is what happened when host Mills faced off against Sequoia Friday night in Millbrae.
The game was a dichotomy of styles — Mills using the currently in vogue 3-point shot. Sequoia, on the other hand, uses a decidedly old-school method: one that is dependent on post play.
So while the Cherokees could not match the 10 3-pointers the Vikings drained, Mills had no answer for Sequoia’s twin-tower combination of Talita Falepapalangi and Soana Afu.
Falepapalangi had a monster game, finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Afu added eight points and 12 boards. The Cherokees were effective in getting the ball down on the block for both and they responded.
“I’m old school,” said Picchi, who led the 1987-88 Burlingame girls’ basketball team to the state championship and Sequoia to the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals last season.
“My stuff is so old, people think it’s new again.”
Sequoia dominated the boards, shut out the Vikings in the second quarter and made a living at the free-throw line as the Cherokees pulled away for a 54-43 victory.
“The intensity (was like a playoff game),” said Sequoia head coach Steve Picchi. “The intensity was there.”
Mills did not make it easy. And early on, it looked like the Vikings were poised to shoot Sequoia out of the gym. Mills hit four of its first five shots — including a trio triples — as it jumped out to a 16-5 lead with 2:13 left in the opening period.
When the Vikings scored again on a pair of Debbie Zshornack free throws, there was 6:33 left in the third quarter.
During that 11 minute, 40 second Vikings’ scoring drought, Sequoia outscored them 26-0.
The comeback started innocently enough as the Cherokees closed the first period with four free throws to close to 16-9. Falepapalangi and Afu combined to score all nine of Sequoia’s first-quarter points.
Sequoia continued its run in the second quarter and it wasn’t based so much on its shooting, the Cherokees had only nine first-half field goals, but on their rebounding. Not only did they limit Mills to one-and-done nearly every time down the court, the Cherokees would seemingly get two and three shots every possession, usually resulting in a trip to the line.
Sequoia outrebounded Mills 23-7 in the first two quarters and absolutely owned the offensive glass, pulling down nine offensive boards. The
Falepapalangi and Afu did most of the damage as the Vikings simply had no one that could match up with the size and strength the duo presented. Afu had eight of her rebounds in the first half, while Falepapalangi pulled down nine over the final two quarters.
“We have a strong, double low post,” Picchi said.
Cherokees also took advantage at the free-throw line, hitting on 26 of 33. Mills, conversely, was 7 for 10 — all in the second half.
Despite all of Mills’ struggles, it did not cave. In fact, the Vikings found their stroke again in the third period as Kaela Stonebarger found the range from behind the arc.
Stonebarger started hot, nailing a pair of 3s in the first quarter, one from each corner. In the third, she converted a four-point play, hit one of two free throws and went back-to-back-to-back from downtown to close the quarter as the Vikings battled back to close to 36-32 going into the fourth.
Stonebarger ended up with a game-high 26 points, with six 3-pointers.
A pair of Stonebarger free throws with 6:24 left closed Mills’ deficit to 39-36, but the Vikings scored only one point over the next five-plus minutes.
When Chloe Tam knocked down a pair of 3s with under a minute to go, Sequoia was already well in control.
“Our kids stayed composed and just chipped away,” Picchi said.
St. Francis 65, Sacred Heart Prep 38
The championship game of the Mills High School Shootout was anticlimactic after a thrilling third-place game.
The Lancers scored the first 10 points of the game, led 26-7 after one period and cruised to the championship with the lopsided win over the Gators.
SHP managed only seven points in each of the first three quarters as a suffocating and quick St. Francis defense made even entry passes tough. The Lancers added 16 more in the second quarter to lead 42-14 at halftime and they pushed their advantage to 32, 53-21, after three periods.
Charlotte Levison led SHP with 12 points, but took a nasty spill midway through the fourth quarter and sat out the rest of the game. Megan Morris added 11 for the Gators.
St. Francis was paced by Paige Uyehara, who scored a game-high 19 points, connecting on four 3-pointers.