By Jeremy Balan
SAN ANSELMO — The presence of battle-tested seniors is a welcome asset in any high school sports contest, but it was a glaring advantage for Bay School in its Bay Counties League Central championship game against International.
The top two teams in the BCL Central are evenly-matched across the board, except in one category. Bay’s seniors outnumber International’s 7-1, and the Breakers rode a pair of upperclassmen to a 58-55 win on Saturday at San Domenico School.
After trailing 17-8 in the first quarter, Bay seniors and third-year varsity players Clara Cardillo and Mary MacLeod combined for 38 of the Breakers’ final 50 points, and they led at the end of every following quarter despite a back-and-forth contest.
As they did in their 19-point win over the Bay (21-6) in their final regular season meeting, the Jaguars (20-8) denied MacLeod the ball from baseline to baseline, but Cardillo would respond with a season-high 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the floor.
“Clara finally put together the game, thank goodness, that she’s capable of putting together every time, but just hasn’t for whatever reason,” said Bay head coach Larry Minnich. “I am not surprised. I’ve been waiting for this breakout game from her all year and it was a wonderful time for her to show it.”
The league title is Bay’s second in as many years, and the second in this academic year for Cardillo, who led the Breakers to a volleyball league title in the fall.
“It’s the best I could have hoped for, winning two championships in my senior year,” Cardillo said. “It was our last chance, and we decided to put it all out on the floor.”
Bay came out on top in this meeting, but even in the a loss International’s young squad shined, especially at the guard position, where freshman Natalie Kelly and junior Denia Ebersole combined for 45 points.
Ebersole nearly willed the Jaguars to victory with 16 fourth-quarter points, but she struggled shooting for most of the game and didn’t hit her first field goal until the 4:01 mark in the fourth quarter.
“If any one was going to do it, it would be her, and she almost did it in that fourth quarter, single-handedly” International head coach Charlene Murphy said of Ebersole. “We just fell short.”
As Ebersole struggled through the first three quarters, the just barely 5-foot Kelly was electric, scoring 23 points on a blend hard-driving layups and cold-blooded outside shooting.
“She’s our mighty mouse on the team and she’s just deadly on the floor,” Murphy said. “She’s had a couple of games like that, because they understand that some days one is going to have a bad game and the other one has to carry the load.”
But when it mattered the most, experience ruled supreme, as Cardillo poured in 10 points in the fourth quarter, including two crucial baskets in the final two minutes, after International tied the score at 51-51.
“They could have folded their tent, but they didn’t, because they are seniors,” Minnich said. “That’s what seniors do for you and every coach out there knows it. That’s the advantage we had in the end.”
With the win, Bay clinches the league’s automatic bid to the CIF-North Coast Section Division V playoffs, which begin next week. International should also be in the tournament easily with an at-large bid, but the Jaguars will have to wait until the brackets are released on Sunday to know for sure.
“There’s plenty of life left for us next week,” Murphy said. “It isn’t over for us and I hope this really lights a fire under us and we can go on a three or four game [run]. Nobody thought we’d get this far, so you never know.”
Clara Cardillo – 28
Mary MacLeod – 14
Julia Millhouse – 6
Kelsey MacLeod – 3
Kayley You Mak – 3
Natalie Kelly – 23
Denia Ebersole – 22
Emilia Omerberg – 8
Clara Hancock – 2