It was another solid season for the Burlingame boys’ basketball team, consistently one of the top public school teams in the Central Coast Section. The Panthers finished with an overall record of 19-9, just short of their goal of 20 wins but nonetheless successful. Led by senior captains Vinny Ferrari, Tyler Garlitos, and Bassel Mufarreh, as well as a strong collection of role players, Burlingame started the season strong, highlighted by a home victory over state power Serra on Dec. 18.
The strong preseason gave the team plenty of confidence heading into league play in the PAL South division. Although they lost two winnable games against Hillsdale and Capuchino, they finished 9-3 in league and in second place. Highlights from the league season included a tight victory in the PAL opener at Aragon, two close wins against rival Mills, an always-tough team, and a 30-point rout on senior night at home against San Mateo.
The Panthers received the South’s second seed in the PAL tournament and defeated Westmoor at home 68-43 before falling to Half Moon Bay, which was undefeated in league, in the semifinals. Nevertheless, they were selected as the top seed in the CCS Division III tournament, which gave them an automatic trip to the quarterfinals.
Their first CCS game was against eighth-seeded Monterey on Feb. 27 at Aragon High School, and the Panthers got off to a hot start, opening up an 11-point lead after one quarter. They did not play their best game the rest of the way, but managed to hold on for a 61-51 win to advance to the semifinals.
Waiting for them there was an old nemesis, the fourth-seed Archbishop Riordan Crusaders, who had knocked Burlingame out of the CCS Open division playoffs in 2014. Riordan had also ended Burlingame’s football season in 2015, so the Panthers came in hungry for revenge.
And they came out playing with a lot of energy and a lot of heart. Led by an outstanding game from Garlitos, the Panthers led by as many as nine points late in the first half before Riordan got hot and opened up a double-digit lead. Despite many spirited attempts to close the gap, Burlingame ultimately lost 83-74.
Despite the disappointing ending, this year’s team will be remembered by its many accomplishments. The Panthers had a tendency to be extremely streaky, unpredictable, and inconsistent--they’d play great one quarter and poorly the next--but were a very resilient bunch that lost back-to-back games only twice all year. And when the stars were having an off night, the team’s role players, such as Callum Spurlock, Gray Goodman, and Alex Waldsmith, stepped up and helped carry the team.
Head coach Pete Harames summed up the season concisely after the loss to Riordan, saying, “great season, great kids. I enjoyed them.”
Although Burlingame will be losing many top players to graduation next year, hopes are high for next year’s team as well. Spurlock, a sophomore, was thrust into the starting lineup midway through the season and proved to be a good three-point shooter and defender. Juniors Goodman and Jack Baker are excellent on the defensive end and can provide an occasional offensive spark as well. With them and others leading the way, look for the Panthers to make another push for a CCS title in 2017.