By JOHN MURPHY
March 7, 2013
One only had to see Burlingame basketball coach Pete Harames receive one post-game hug after another from his teary-eyed players, to know how far the Panthers came from their modest start.
Unfortunately for Burlingame, a history-making season ended Tuesday night before a packed gym, as the host Panthers fell to Campolindo 58-50 in a CIF-State Northern California Regional opener.
Harames was a first-year Panther coach whom the players took a little time to warm up to. The team was 5-7 after 12 games, but finished with a flourish, winning the school's first Central Coast Section boys' title last Saturday by defeating Santa Cruz at Foothill College.
"We started slow, but finished very well," Harames said. "It was a great season. I think the key was just learning each other. They're all great kids."
Campolindo (20-8) led 23-18 at the half and ballooned its lead to 10 before Burlingame (21-9) rallied. The Panthers scored nine consecutive points to pull to within 48-47 with 3:36 left in the game, with Mikel Floro-Cruz's three-pointer to cap the run sending the cramped Panther gym into pandemonium.
But Campo had one final surge in it, scoring 10 of the game's final 13 points to advance.
"I was a little worried, but I felt like we'd win the whole time," said Campolindo guard Andrew Zolitakis who scored a team-high 15 points. "We've been down in games before and come back."
Center Nick Loew paced Burlingame with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Floro-Cruz and Connor Haupt added 11 points apiece.
"We had a lot of mental breakdowns," Loew said. "We just didn't execute. I thought we gave it a heck of a run at the end, but it was just too little, too late."
Still, Loew was proud of the way the team came together to produce such a memorable season, one that red-clad Panther fans celebrated Tuesday night by filling the gym for the unique boys-girls NorCal doubleheader.
"We got Burlingame's first CCS (championship) and that's something we're very proud of and we went 12-0 in league," Loew said. "I have no regrets. I thought we had a great season. I was very proud to be on this team."
While Burlingame's season has ended, Campolindo advances now to play at El Cerrito at 7 p.m. Saturday in the second round.
John Murphy may be reached at jmurphy@Prep2Prep.com.