BURLINGAME, Calif. — The future is now for the Burlingame Panthers.
Yes, there will likely be bumps on the road for a team starting five sophomores, but with the display the hosts put on Thursday night in the semifinals of the 43rd Burlingame Lions Club Invitational, it’s hard not to believe in what head coach Jeff Dowd is building in his second stint leading the program.
For the first time since 2013, they’ll be playing in the championship game of their own tournament after a 70-36 trouncing of the Gunn Titans, a game in which they closed the first half on an 11-2 run and pulled away after the break behind a balanced attack. Four different scorers reached double-figures for the undersized Panthers, who don’t have a single player over 6-foot-3 but still managed a 28-23 rebounding advantage and outscored Gunn 36-8 in the paint.
“I think it has to do with our spacing,” said Miles Klapper, who played on the JV team as a freshman but has transitioned seamlessly, scoring 12 while pulling down a game-high nine rebounds. “We have a lot of good shooters, so if we space out the floor, they have to come guard us. Tonight it started on defense. We came out with a lot of energy, and it led to a lot of steals and a lot of easy points.”
Burlingame (7-1) got 29 points off turnovers to the Titans’ six, punctuated by Sean Richardson’s steal and layup to bring the lead to 46-24 in the third, part of a 13-0 run.
“Our defense led to offense tonight,” the sophomore guard said. “That’s what we have to do every single night.”
Not only did the Panthers create transition points off of turnovers, they did so while showcasing tremendous energy for a program that had been moribund over the past few years. The stands may have been more than half-empty, but there was plenty of noise between the players both on the floor and on the bench.
“That comes when you’re playing well,” Dowd explained. “Good programs have energy.”
Having scored under 55 in four of their first seven games, the Panthers eclipsed that total by the end of the third, making a prominent run in each quarter to ensure Gunn (3-2) would have no momentum whatsoever. After a three by Klapper to start the game, the Titans rattled off eight points in a row, including five of the eight Yotam Elazar would score on the night, but the Panthers came right back with a 15-1 surge of their own to finish the quarter, including a pair of Lou Martineau transition layups. Martineau, who started as a freshman, scored a game-high 16.
Gunn closed the gap to six by rattling off a 7-2 run early in the second quarter, getting an Akash Ravani three and Gavin Kitch lay-in off a turnover to cut it to 22-16, but junior Ryan Ballout announced his presence in the following minutes.
“It’s a very competitive group,” Dowd said. “We have nine guys capable of starting with a couple coming late from football.”
The forward had a breakout game off the bench, finishing with 12 points and three steals. His putback brought the lead back to 10, and the advantage would grow all the way to 17 on a Klapper three before Kaden Holdbrook connected from beyond the arc to close the half for the visitors.
Richardson would finish with 12 to match Klapper and Ballout, racking up four steals along with seven assists.
“He gets so much excitement from making a great pass, and you put him out there with four great shooters,” Dowd said. “We couldn’t even get into our sets because we were just getting so much out of the flow.”
Will Uhrich, one of two football players on the Burlingame roster, would add nine points of his own while Holdbrook led Gunn with 13 on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor. Jack Hakeman, who scored 26 in Tuesday’s win over Aragon, was held to just four.
Half Moon Bay 66, Hillsdale 59
It seemed Mykola Ediger was the only constant in the first of Thursday’s games.
With the Half Moon Bay Cougars taking on Hillsdale for the second time in 10 days, the Cougars avenged their earlier loss with a 66-59 victory, letting Hillsdale come back from down 16 but ensuring the Fighting Knights could never do more than tie in the fourth quarter as Ediger iced the game. His putback with 3:52 left would put Half Moon Bay (2-3) ahead for good at 52-50, starting a string of eight straight points he scored to help put the game away to punctuate his 30-point, 11-rebound performance.
“We just needed to calm down and take care of the ball,” said the junior guard, who finished with six steals, five assists and four blocks.
13 of his points and six of the rebounds came in the fourth quarter as the Cougars managed to stave off a ferocious charge. Hillsdale (5-2) trailed 47-31 halfway through the third quarter after an Ediger-fueled 17-2 run, in which he scored nine as HMB came in hot out of the break, but after he fed his brother Sean for a layup to open up the largest lead of the game, the Knights came roaring back. A Matthew Chan corner three kickstarted an 11-0 Hillsdale surge to close the quarter, with Junior Cotton’s 3-pointer from the top of the arc bringing his team back to within five heading into the final quarter. Sophomore Calvin Mader-Clark, who scored 17, would hit the last of his three 3-pointers to open the fourth and would tie the game at 48 with 5:30 left, but Ediger was quick to answer. The Cougars would have chances to add on, but after missing their next three shots, Cotton would make them pay with an elbow jumper to knot it up again before Ediger took over for good.
Cotton, who scored 30, would cut the lead to 59-55 on an and-1 with 44.4 seconds left, but the Cougars would make seven of their eight free throw attempts in the final minute, with Michael Hourani going 4-for-4. Hourani finished with eight points while Ben McKnight pitched in seven.
Menlo 50, Stuart Hall 34
In a battle of Knights versus Knights, Stuart Hall finished with its lowest point total since 2013 as Menlo (2-1) allowed just 14 points in the middle quarters to take a commanding 41-26 lead after three. The victors got a game-high 20 points from sophomore Garret Keyhani while Cole Kastner racked up another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Kyle Jasper led Stuart Hall (6-2) with 16 while Jay-Henry Ryan chipped in nine.
Aragon 68, Oceana 23
The Dons snapped a three-game losing streak by outscoring the Sharks 36-9 in the first half en route to a running clock win. Murphy Caffo led Aragon (3-4) with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Daniel Geller and Ryan Tait each scored 12 off the bench. Geller was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, while Sean Hensley led Oceana (1-4) with seven.
Special thanks to tournament statistician Tyler Jamieson.