By Jeremy Balan
PALO ALTO – It’s not hard to spot the Menlo School girls basketball team’s biggest advantage.
At 6-foot-4, Menlo junior center Drew Edelman stands 5 inches taller than any Mercy players and that disparity proved fatal for the Skippers on Saturday in the West Bay Athletic League tournament championship game at Castilleja School.
With Mercy clinging to a 52-51 late in the fourth quarter, Edelman followed her own miss at the buzzer to give the Knights a 53-52 win.
The Knights (17-9) had four scrambling offensive rebounds on the final possession before Edelman’s game-winning layup and outrebounded Mercy 50-28 in the game. Edelman had more rebounds than the whole Mercy team with 29, to go along with a game-high 25 points.
“If you can’t block out on the last sequence like that, you don’t deserve to win,” said Mercy head coach Michael Gutierrez. “We didn’t deserve to win.”
Mercy (24-2) led for the entire second half until Edelman’s final score and had a 46-36 lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, but only hit 2-of-12 shots from the floor in the final frame.
The top-seeded Skippers stayed ahead for most of the game despite forwards Courtney Sabahi and Nia Ilalio missing considerable chunks of time due to foul trouble. The pair was tasked with guarding Edelman and struggled to defend her in the low post.
“We didn’t show what Mercy basketball is about,” Gutierrez said. “We had our best players out for half the game.”
Mercy led 25-19 at the half and Edelman had 15 of the Knights’ first-half points.
“We got them in foul trouble early and I gotta hand it to them, their starting players were on the bench and they made a run at us,” said Menlo head coach John Paye.
Sabahi had a team-high 11 points and six rebounds in limited time and standout senior guard Mariah Masoli added 10 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 49 seconds left to give Mercy a 52-49 lead.
Even after the heartbreaking loss, Gutierrez downplayed the importance of the game, since the Skippers already clinched the league title with a 9-1 regular-season record.
“It means absolutely nothing in the larger scheme of things,” Gutierrez said. “But you always hate to lose, especially letting someone in your own division know they can beat you.”
The Skippers will likely still be seeded higher in the Central Coast Section Division IV tournament due to two regular-season wins over the Knights, but may not be the top seed after the loss in the championship game.
Drew Edelman – 25
Lauren Lete – 12
Maddie Price – 10
Donya Dehnad – 4
Kaelen Dunn – 2
Courtney Sabahi – 11
Mariah Masoli – 10
Monique Mariano – 9
Christina Haight – 6
Tallia Schivo – 6