Mercy-San Francisco girls basketball coach Mike Gutierrez is one of the most experienced coaches in the Central Coast Section. The Skippers implemented a diamond-and-one defense to stop Menlo School's Hannah Paye, triggering a come-from-behind 38-31 West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division victory in Atherton on Tuesday.
The loss had to be frustrating for the Knights, who led 23-15 late in the third period. The Skippers (10-11, 2-5 WBAL Foothill) went on a 23-8 run to close out the game.
"You have to hand it to Mercy-San Francisco," said Menlo coach John Paye, whose club dropped to 12-9 overall, 3-4 in league. "We went into a cold spell and only scored eight points in a half. They scored 21 in the fourth quarter."
Neither team could hit the broadside of a barn in the first three minutes, which were scoreless. Hannah Paye, daughter of John Paye, broke the drought with a nothing-but-net 3-pointer. Hannah Paye stroked three treys in the period, along with a coast-to-coast layin after gathering in a long defensive rebound. Paye, who had all 11 of Menlo's first-period points, made a fourth 3-point goal early in the second period, but that was it for the night.
Mercy started the second half with its gimmick defense, using Kathleen Bufka to deny Paye while the other four Skippers on the floor played zone.
"Paye is a really good stand-alone shooter," Gutierrez said. "We couldn't find her. Then our kids did a good job on her and she got frustrated."
"We didn't execute our offense in the second half," John Paye said. "Hopefully, we'll come out with more energy on Friday."
Menlo held a 23-17 lead after three periods, but a quick banker Bufka and a putback by Nelly Escobar prompted Paye to call timeout.
Menlo's Olivia Ferrando had a 3-point goal rim in for 26-22 Knights. A 3-pointer by Gabby Jajeh gave the Skippers a 30-28 lead with 2:25 to play. Jajeh had all six of her points in the final frame.
"I told Jajeh to take that three because she had confidence," Gutierrez said. "She has been a very sporadic shooter. We've been a poor-shooting team all year, but it's amazing what confidence can do for you, once you starting hitting a couple shots."
Menlo's Donya Dehnad, who had nine points, hit a high-arcing trey for Menlo's final lead at 31-30. Taylor McNeil netted 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to seal the win for the Skippers. Escobar had 13 points, while center Maciell Cole had 11 rebounds for the Skippers.
The Knights had just four players in the scoring column, shooting 7-of-24 from 3-point land, 6-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Mercy-San Francisco 7 4 6 21 -- 38
Menlo School 11 7 5 8 -- 31
M-SF--Cole 1 0-0 2, Segura 4 0-0 8, Escobar 5 3-4 13, Jajeh 2 1-2 6, Bufka 1 0-0 2, McNeil 1 5-6 7. Totals 14 9-12 38.
MS--Paye 5 0-0 14, Dehnad 2 4-7 9, Rantz 0 1-2 1, Ferrando 2 1-2 7. Totals 9 6-11 31.
3-point goals: Jajeh (M-SF); Paye 4, Dehnad, Ferrando 2 (MS).