Westmoor boys headed to PAL final
Friday’s Peninsula Athletic League boys’ basketball tournament clash between Burlingame and Westmoor high schools falls under the term “instant classic.” First, because of the finish. And second, because once again, David has slain Goliath. Consider that prior to the 2012 tournament, Westmoor had yet to win a PAL tournament game, 0-5 to be exact, while Burlingame has played in the tourney’s championship game the last five seasons. Add to that the Panthers’ 12-0 mark in PAL South Division play this year and very few red and white supporters gave the upstart Rams any chance. But thanks to a Wai Min put-back at the buzzer, Westmoor will dance for the championship Saturday night at Sequoia High School.
The Rams survived a furious Burlingame second-half comeback in which Westmoor led by as many as 17. “I call it ‘senior desire,’” said Rams head coach Herb Yaptinchay. “There are a lot seniors on this team who have a lot of, desire. They really want to succeed. They want to come out here and win a basketball game.” “It’s a huge win. Our program hasn’t had a lot of success in 13, 14 years.
I think the last time we had any success was like 1999. Most of these kids were probably in diapers. So, I think it’s a huge win for the program. Five or six years ago, these guys won no games and now, all of sudden, we’re playing in the PAL championships.” The key to Westmoor’s win on Friday was its offensive distribution — different players caught fire at different times to help build the lead. In the first quarter, it was guard John Mayuga’s seven points that were huge. Burlingame did a great job of establishing Nick Loew in the post to take advantage of their superior size. No. 44 didn’t make a basket, but he went to the line three times and knocked down six freebies. Connor Haupt, the recently announced PAL South Most Valuable Player, got off to a decent start, scoring seven points. But Burlingame only led 18-15 after one quarter. Come the second, the Rams caught fire. The game was tied 21-21 before Westmoor closed the period out by outscoring the Panthers 16-7. Errol Fernandez scored eight points in the frame while Robert Santos knocked down two 3-pointers — in all, the Rams were 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and 8 of 13 overall from the field. Burlingame shot just 30 percent. “I tell these guys when they share the rock, they’re unselfish, we look beautiful,” Yaptinchay said. “And that’s what we were doing the first half. They attacked, they were looking for the extra pass. They were getting open looks. The second half, Burlingame put a little more pressure on us.” “The first half,” said Burlingame head coach Pete Harames when asked what the difference in the game was. “They shot well. They were open shots. That was the reason. And then, I thought we had them.” Before the Panthers stormed back, they fell behind even further. In the third quarter, it was Mayuga once again from the perimeter that burned Burlingame on a couple of huge shots. For the game, the point guard finished with 20 points. The Panthers began their run late in the third. It was until Haupt hit a jumper with 2:06 left in the period that Burlingame finally hit a second half basket. But that was a sign of things to come. Haupt scored 14 of his 24 points in the second half. More important to the Panthers’ comeback was the strong fourth-quarter play of Chris Graham. He scored all 10 of his points in that period as Burlingame stormed back. His basket underneath got the Panthers to within a point at 56-55 and, with 20 second left, Haupt drove and hit a floater in the lane for the 57-55 lead — their first since the 6:52 mark of the second quarter. “We got a little tired,” Yaptinchay said. “We were playing up-tempo and you noticed a lot of guys started to cramp up near the end of the game. We stopped attacking and all of sudden they were able to come back. Credit them, they played very hard and got the lead there the last couple of seconds.” Westmoor called a timeout and looked to set the hot Mayuga on a shot. No. 1 drove to his left and heaved up a desperation 3-pointer between two defenders with seconds ticking off the clocks. The shot was off, but there was Min, sneaking under the Burlingame defense and tipping the ball back into the hoop as the buzzer sounded. Min finished with eight points — none bigger than the two taking his team to their first PAL tournament championship.