In theory, the foundation for any successful basketball team is one star running the point, and another controlling the post.
For the Burlingame girls, that formula has led to dramatic improvement under first-year head coach Joe Dito. With junior guard Nicole Brunicardi and junior center Amber Moss leading the way, the Panthers have already clinched a spot in the CCS playoffs due to a 7-5 record in non-league play. They currently sit at 10-13 overall and 3-8 in the PAL South, much improved from last year’s team that finished 5-16.
“I think we help get each other open,” Moss said of herself and Brunicardi. “We get those opportunities because our teammates believe in us, and they’re confident giving us the ball.”
Brunicardi and Moss are far from the only players contributing, however. Freshman Samantha Kershner was thrust into the starting lineup midway through the season and has gotten significant playing time at point guard. Junior Michala O’Donoghue has provided a spark off the bench, hitting a dramatic game-winning three-pointer against Balboa back in December. Senior Ana Palu has been solid on the defensive end and is the team’s leading rebounder, and junior Sammy Goodwill and senior Dejanay Briseno have seen quality minutes as well.
Despite the team’s losing record in league play, the Panthers have been in every game except a blowout at the hands of Menlo-Atherton, a team ranked 17th in California by Maxpreps.com. Their resiliency was most on display in a loss to rival San Mateo on Jan. 20. After falling behind by 20 points in the first half, the Panthers got as close as seven points in the final minutes before coming up short.
“We all know why we’re there,” Brunicardi said. “Our goal is to win, and we all work together to try to achieve that, and if not, then we work harder.”
Burlingame has looked especially impressive in two recent wins over Capuchino. In the first of those, Brunicardi practically willed her team to victory, scoring 24 of the team’s 48 points. In the second, the Panthers outscored the Mustangs in every quarter, cruising to a 15-point win.
Although the Panthers have eight seniors, they usually start no more than one or two, so the future of the program is bright, with Brunicardi and Moss leading the way again next year and Kershner ready to take the reins once they graduate.
“I definitely think with this group of juniors and sophomores, we’ve all played together for a really long time,” Moss said. “That’s going to be a very good thing next year, and it’s going to show.”