BURLINGAME, Calif. — The stars aligned perfectly for the Burlingame Panthers to close the regular season with a thrilling Senior Night victory over a Capuchino team that handed them a one-point loss 10 days earlier.
Instead of returning the favor with late theatrics, the Panthers absolutely blew the doors off the Mustangs in the form of a 62-37 pummeling to secure third place in a competitive PAL-South Division and enter the CCS Division II playoffs on a high note.
Sophomore Elana Weisman outscored Capuchino’s entire team by herself in each of the first two quarters, Burlingame (18-6, 9-3 PAL South) held the Mustangs’ West Coast Conference-bound tandem of Melesungu Afeaki and Hailey Hoff to just two points in the first half and the Panthers led by as much as 31 before emptying the bench in a resounding victory.
“Playing at home in this atmosphere, it’s bigger than basketball,” said junior forward Ava Uhrich. “It brings the community together, it fires us up, it’s just a different type of energy.”
Ava’s older brother, Will, was on hand with the entire boys varsity team after a season in which the boys and girls varsity teams were playing at opposite sites as part of COVID-19-related measures. That group led a hearty cheering section that had plenty to get excited about, with Uhrich racking up 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“For the guys varsity team to come out, for the cheerleaders to come out when they weren’t supposed to be, it just changes it all for us,” said Uhrich, who combined with Weisman to outscore the entire Mustang roster by 17.
Weisman, only a sophomore, outscored the Mustangs 10-8 in the first quarter and 6-4 in the second as the Panthers took a 29-12 halftime lead. She made three 3-pointers as part of a game-high 29-point effort, and she also produced 10 rebounds and three assists.
“No one can stop us,” Uhrich said of her chemistry with Weisman. “She creates a lot of space for me, and when I get double-teamed, I dish it to her.”
The tandem combined for 14 points in a first quarter that Burlingame closed on a 9-0 run to take an 18-8 lead, with Weisman hitting her first two threes and Grace DeLuca adding four points off the bench. Uhrich and Weisman were responsible for all 11 points in the second quarter as the Panthers led by 20 before sophomore Ashlee Triunfo closed the half with a 3-pointer for Capuchino (13-11, 8-4), the Mustangs’ lone made field goal of the second quarter.
“Our defense was the difference tonight,” Burlingame head coach Joe Dito said. “We really tried to focus on Afeaki and Hailey. They’re both Division I athletes and they get a lot of attention.”
Afeaki and Hoff combined for 48 points when the teams first met on Feb. 4, a game the Mustangs won 61-60 on an Arianna Anaya free throw with 2.7 seconds left. On Monday, the San Diego-bound Afeaki scored on an early putback but was otherwise silenced until the second half, while Hoff, a Pepperdine commit, finished with just six points, knocking down a pair of threes in the third quarter.
The latter of those 3-pointers got the Mustangs to within 14, but Uhrich, who went 7-for-8 at the line, responded with a pair of free throws and Michelle Moskovoy made two at the line to send Burlingame into the fourth up 45-27. After Sarah Chavez opened the fourth with a 12-foot baseline jumper, the Panthers fired off a 17-2 run to put the game away, with every one of those points coming from Weisman and Uhrich. Uhrich’s 3-pointer off one of Sachi Urushima’s four assists made it 56-31, and Burlingame doubled up the Mustangs when Uhrich received a pass from Weisman two minutes later.
Afeaki led the Mustangs with nine points, while Chavez and Arianna Jordan each scored eight. Capuchino will likely be awarded a high seed in the CCS Division III bracket when seedings come out on Wednesday, while the Panthers expect to be one of the top seeds in Division II.
“We’ve been thinking about this since Day 1, so we’re excited,” Uhrich said of her team’s playoff aspirations.