The game didn’t mean anything in terms of the standings, but there were several reasons why Burlingame were desperate for a win in its final regular-season game against the San Mateo Bearcats. It was both Senior Night and a rivalry game, which provide their own motivation, and besides, the Panthers had suffered a beatdown on Tuesday at the hands of first-place Menlo-Atherton. They thus needed a victory Friday as a confidence-booster heading into the playoffs.
Host Burlingame got just that, leading for the final 29 minutes and cruising past the visiting Bearcats, 68-38. The Panthers have now beaten San Mateo 27 straight times, a streak that dates back to 2001.
Vinny Ferrari led the way for the Panthers with 22 points, while Tyler Garlitos added 15. Burlingame has two players, Garlitos and center Bassel Mufarreh, listed at 6’ 5’’, while San Mateo has very little in terms of size. So the Panthers knew that if they could limit the Bearcats’ shooting along the perimeter, they could go to work inside and run San Mateo right out of the building. They executed that strategy nearly to perfection on Friday, holding the Bearcats to just 15 first-half points.
“Good, hard defense. We needed to step it up,” Burlingame coach Pete Harames said. “Our shot-blocking was good tonight. Our boards were good. I thought our energy, our intensity on defense was really good.”
Burlingame took the lead for the first time three minutes in on a three-pointer by Brendan Garrett and never gave it up. Garlitos also made a three-pointer and a dunk in the opening period. Then, on the Panthers’ final possession of the first quarter, Ferrari held the ball for the majority of the shot clock, dribbled to the free-throw line, seemingly hesitated, and then kicked it out to Garrett, who drained a wide-open three with everyone expecting Ferrari to take the shot. That gave Burlingame an 18-8 lead, and the Panthers were just getting started.
San Mateo scored five quick points to open the second quarter, but Burlingame went on a 13-0 run from there, punctuated by a Ferrari three-pointer. Ferrari scored seven points on that run and had 15 overall in the first half. Burlingame led 34-15 at the break.
The Panthers used their size advantage to shut down the Bearcats offensively, as San Mateo struggled mightily from long range. It was the sixth time in twelve league games that San Mateo was held under 40 points.
Burlingame kept building the lead in the second half. With many starters seeing limited second-half minutes in preparation for the playoffs, the Panthers’ bench picked up where the starters left off. Burlingame’s lead grew to 20 early in the fourth quarter and ultimately reached 30, and San Mateo simply had no answers.
“It’s important [that] we have a good game, play hard. [Playing the bench] was the highlight,” Harames said. Burlingame finished the regular season at 17-7 overall, 9-3 in PAL South play. The Panthers will now focus their attention on the PAL tournament, where they are the South’s second seed. They will host Westmoor, the third-place team from the North, in a PAL quarterfinal game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Be sure to come and support the team.
This article was initially submitted for prep2prep.com.