The Bears (25-2) traveled to Mills High School on Saturday, February 20 to challenge Half Moon Bay High School (25-1) for the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) Tournament Title.
After receiving the MVP of the PAL-south division before the game, Junior guard Eric Norton proved himself MVP of both the North and South PAL divisions, leading the Bears with 14 points, 4 steals, and 3 assists. Norton was unstoppable all season consistently driving to the basket and pushing the Bears’ dynamic offense.
Senior guards Christian and Lucas Fioretti joined him as members of the first team all PAL-south. M-A’s trio of guards proved their first team status leading M-A on both sides of the court with their defense locking down Half Moon Bay to win the title for the first time ever, 45-27.
Both teams started the game with nervous energy and tough defense, leading to multiple turnovers and bad shots for both teams. L. Fioretti drained a three early on and Norton drove in for a lay up to end the quarter trailing 5-6.
Halfway through the second quarter, the Bears found their rhythm with a 7-0 run. C. Fioretti assisted senior Blake Henry in the paint before stealing the ball seconds later and sinking a lay up. Norton followed with a steal and pass to L. Fioretti who swished in a three with 1:22 left in the first half. The Bears finished the half up, leading 19-13.
M-A shook the Cougar’s confidence in the second half, holding them to only 7 points per quarter. Senior center Blake Henry shut down PAL-North MVP Austin Hilton holding him to only two points the entire game.
L. Fioretti drained two more threes, while junior Kai Winterling made 3 key free throws, as Norton and the rest of the Bears’ played stifling defense to pull ahead of the Cougars, winning the game 45-27.
M-A coach Mike Molieri praised his team’s defense saying “That was a clinic defensively. That was our best defense in four years. That’s a very well coached team at HMB. I think our defense, our intensity, and our aggressiveness put them in an uncomfortable situation that they haven’t had in a long time.”
C. Fioretti explained, ““It was a little rough on offense, at end of first quarter it was 6-5, but we definitely D-ed up and that was our first priority. We needed to stop Austin [Hilton], and we needed to stop Tommy [Nuno] and Jake [Salinero] and we did.”
MVP Norton agreed with C. Fioretti adding that the Bears’ consistent effort was a major factor in the dominating performance. “Last time [we played Half Moon Bay], we were aggressive the first half, but not the second half. This time we knew we needed to stay aggressive the whole time, putting pressure on defense, forcing turnovers, making big time shots.”
C. Fioretti added, “The first time we played [Half Moon Bay] we were going under screens when they were doing dribble hand offs so they could just pop a three and during the second half last game we broke down defensively, and we gave up 22 points in the fourth quarter.”
L. Fioretti set the Bear’s goals going into the Open Division of [Central Coast Section] CCS: “We can make the championship and play in Santa Clara, so that’s definitely our goal. Tonight we showed that we can compete with anyone here.”
M-A’s famous sixth man Vice President, Jack Posthauer, emphasized the importance of getting people out to the games: “We’re trying to get as big a crowd as possible for every CCS game and we need to show up with numbers. Tonight was a great night, a great moment for M-A. I can’t wait for what’s to come; I’m excited for the future…”
Molieri concluded “We’re looking forward to the next challenge in the open division. We are going to enjoy every moment.”