Burlingame, Serra to use matchup as barometer

When the boys’ basketball teams of Burlingame and Serra high schools meet on the Padres’ home court Friday night, there will be more than just two teams looking for another nonleague win.

The visiting Panthers (5-1) are fresh off winning their own tournament this past weekend and are preparing for Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division action next month. For host Serra (3-1), coming off a solid showing at last weekend’s De La Salle Tournament in the East Bay, it is another chance to get a young team ready for the rugged West Catholic Athletic League.

Both coaches are expecting a tough game from their opponent on Friday, and both agree it is exactly what their respective team needs.

“Burlingame is a great team,” Padres coach Chuck Rapp said after a practice this week. “They will be a big challenge for us.”

Panthers coach Jeff Dowd is also expecting a close game.

“Serra has always been one of the best teams in the area,” Dowd said. “They will help us get ready for league. We’ll see how we compete and how we respond to adversity.”

Rapp sees a chance for his team, which lost four starters from last year’s 24-7 squad, to get much-needed court time together.

“[Losing four starters] is the big challenge for us this year,” Rapp said. “Even though we have a lot of seniors on this team, they didn’t get a whole lot of playing time last year. It gives you cause for concern.”

Point guard Connor McGrath is the only returning starter for Serra, and Rapp is leaning heavily on the senior to help run the team.

“He is definitely a leader for us,” Rapp said.

Senior Dalyn Pacheco is expected to be a force in the paint this year for Serra.

“He’s been improving on finishing inside better and hitting the boards harder,” Rapp said.

The Padres have also gotten an early boost from sophomore Henry Caruso, who teamed up with McGrath to earn all-tournament honors over the weekend.

The Panthers will be led by senior big men Rodrigo Puliceno, who earned tournament MVP honors over the weekend, and Kyle Shaffer.

Senior point guard Kwesi Bailey will lead the Panthers’ attack while Dowd is expecting 6-foot-5 freshman center Nick Loew to make an impact for Burlingame this year as well.

“Right now, we are establishing our rotation and defending the boards,” Dowd said. “We need to play as a cohesive unit.”

Serra will start its league schedule first, a Jan. 4 game at home against St. Ignatius. The Padres finished league 11-3 last year, runner-up to 14-0 St. Francis, who the Padres will see for the first time this year at home on Jan. 21.

Burlingame finished third in the PAL Bay last year with a 7-3 mark, one game behind Carlmont and Mills. Neither team is in the Bay Division this year, leaving Burlingame as the early favorite to capture the Bay crown. The Panthers open league at Woodside on Jan. 12.

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