Burlingame learning from mistakes 

Last year, a three-game losing streak was all that stood between the Burlingame High School boys’ basketball team and a Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title.

This year, the Panthers have no intention of letting the Bay title slip through their fingers again.

“We thought we’d be playing good this year,” Burlingame head coach Jeff Dowd said prior to Wednesday’s game against El Camino, a game won by the Panthers 54-42.

At 7-0 in league going into Friday’s PAL Bay Division clash against Menlo-Atherton and an impressive 18-3 overall for the season, the Panthers could wrap up the league title with games to spare and turn their focus to another preseason goal — advancing deep into the playoffs.

Wednesday’s victory over the Colts at El Camino High School not only set up the chance to close out the league early, but also showed the Panthers what they can do when faced with adversity. With the team’s driving force in the middle, Rodrigo Pulicedo, in foul trouble for most of the game, the Panthers discovered they could still run their inside-outside game effectively.

With Pulicedo — and his double-double average — out of the mix, Kyle Shaffer stepped up with 17 points and nearly every one of them was generated in the paint. And when the Colts collapsed onto Shaffer, Stephen Johnson rained in 13 points behind a trio of 3-pointers.

“It all starts with establishing the inside game for us,” Dowd said.

Which is usually Pulicedo’s bailiwick as he is averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds per game for the Panthers.
“He’s dominating in the paint,” Dowd said. “He creates a lot of mismatches for us.”

But more importantly than Shaffer’s ability to step up and take on Pulicedo’s role on Wednesday was the fact that the Panthers could have very easily let the win slip away when El Camino put on a furious charge in the second half and still found a way to close out the Colts.

After watching their lead shrink down to five with nine minutes left in the game, the Panthers righted their ship, overcoming some turnovers and rushed shots, to pull away and secure the victory.

“We’ve been a little sloppy lately,” Dowd said. “We need to clean that up.”

His team’s ability to handle adversity — something it will definitely face as it gets into the postseason, especially the kind they faced against the Colts — has Dowd looking forward to what he hopes will be a thrilling playoff run.

“We’re just trying to get better every game,” Dowd said.

The Panthers are already a team that many don’t want to face in the Central Coast Section playoffs. That they can get even better may be a scary thought for every other team in their bracket.

 

Next week’s games

South San Francisco vs. Burlingame

WHEN: Wednesday, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Burlingame High School

LAST TIME: Burlingame defeated South City 64-31 on Jan. 21

Aragon vs. Burlingame

WHEN: Friday, 7:45 p.m.

WHERE: Burlingame High School

LAST TIME: Burlingame defeated Aragon 58-26 on Jan. 26

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