For the record, the Menlo-Atherton girls’ basketball team doesn’t have any left-handers in its starting five.
It sure didn’t seem that way Friday night at Stogner Gymnasium as the Lady Bears (2-0 PAL Bay, 6-7 overall) were scoring with a parade of left-handed dribble-drive layups in a 63-28 blowout of Carlmont.
M-A head coach Steve Yob is new to helm of the Bears, taking over this season for longtime coach Markisha Coleman, who relocated to Eastside College Prep-Palo Alto. Still, a first half in which M-A tripled up on Carlmont 30-10 early in the second quarter, then took a 38-14 lead into halftime, was the best showing Yob has witnessed to date.
“They were driving, they were getting good looks, they finished well,” Yob said. “I told the girls … the first two quarters were probably the best two quarters we’ve played this year.”
The Bears scored 20 points in the first quarter, while shooting 9 of 13 from the floor. Ten of those points were on left-handed layups, fronted by sophomore guard Alyssa Faberowski’s game-high 15 points.
And M-A’s pressure defense helped spur the offensive onslaught. Carlmont totaled 19 turnovers throughout, including 10 in the first half. The Bears weren’t selling out to the full-court press from the outset, but early steals from junior Catharine Chai and senior Linnea Lindblom had the M-A defense smelling blood.
As the Bears ratcheted up the pressure, Carlmont collapsed.
“We knew that would probably be the key to this game,” Yob said. “We can pressure. We’ve got some guards that can pressure the ball. We just thought that was our advantage in the game. … Once we saw that, we got a couple steals, layups — alright, let’s even ramp it up more.”
The Lady Scots (1-1, 11-3) had played well prior to Friday despite graduating their entire starting five from last season. Head coach Dan Mori said he agreed the inexperience was a factor in the inability to advance the ball effectively.
“We practiced a lot this week on breaking the press,” Mori said. “Obviously we have a lot more work to do on that. But then, also in the early going, our shots weren’t falling. They hit shots. And then we dug ourselves a big hole.”
Carlmont shot just 1 of 9 in the first quarter, and went on to convert at ta 21.4% clip throughout. Senior guard Erica Mendiola totaled a team-high 10 points but admitted the lopsided first quarter took the Scots out of their heads.
“After the first quarter we kind of lost our focus,” Mendiola said. “We started to throw some bad passes and we had defensive lapses that kind of lost us the game.”
Three Bears scored in double digits, with Chai adding 13 points along with a game-high seven rebounds. Junior guard Nicolette Yeh totaled 12 points, including three 3s.
M-A held Carlmont to 7 points in each and every quarter, and still kept up a high shooting rate as the game wore on. Senior guard Mariah Dunlap came off the bench to score all 5 of her points in the fourth quarter, during which the Bears attempted 16 shots, their most of any quarter in the game.
“It’s very important,” Dunlap said of finishing strong. “Coach, he tries his best to implement hard work from start to finish. In practices, he tries to put that in our heads; you’ve got work hard, no matter who goes in, no matter what the score is, just go a hundred percent at all times.”
The transition from the Coleman era seems to be going smoothly for M-A. Coleman helmed the team for five seasons, including two Central Coast Section championship-game appearances.
“We definitely miss her,” M-A senior Nell Fahey said. “We love Steve, but we also really miss ‘Keesh.’ She was with the program for [five] years, so before Steve came in, it was definitely her program. And so I think Steve is getting his footing, and he’s definitely a great coach.”
M-A recorded a 4-7 record through a tough non-league schedule. This is similar to last year when the team lost six of nine to start the year before advancing in the postseason to the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals and the CIF Northern California Division IV regional finals.
The Bears have now won two straight to open Peninsula Athletic League South Division play.
“I always like our chances,” Yob said. “Going into any game, I always like our team. They play hard, they listen, they play great basketball. … I love how this league is set up. Any team can bet anyone on any given night. That makes it fun. … You’ve really got to bring it because you can win any game, you can lose any game. So, you’ve really got to be prepared.”
Carlmont, meanwhile, will be looking to bounce back.
“This was our worst game of the season,” Mori said. “Hopefully we’ll have the resilience to bounce back. I’m confident that the girls will dig deep and come back strong last week.”