Less than five minutes into Tuesday night’s opening round game of the Northern California bracket of the CIF Division III boys’ basketball tournament, Burlingame coach Jeff Dowd was worried.
“We we’re very concerned,” Dowd said regarding his Panthers trailing 14-4 midway through the opening period.
But then Burlingame settled down and took command of the game with a 12-point run that spurred the Panthers to a 63-41 victory against Weston Ranch of Stockton in their home gym. The win also set a new school single-season record for wins as Burlingame moved to 27-4 on the season.
“That run at the end of the first [quarter] and start of the second was very important,” Dowd said. “Not only did it get us back in the game, but it helped us stay poised and focused.”
Senior big man Rodrigo Puliceno dominated the game on both ends of the court, leading all scorers with 15 points. Puliceno was a force on the boards, either collecting the rebound for himself or swatting the ball loose for another teammate to gather in.
Puliceno created several turnovers and altered every Cougars’ shot in the paint.
“Rodrigo really settled us down and played a great game,” Dowd said.
Puliceno scored 10 of his points in the first half and got a lot of scoring support in the second half from teammates Dean Ferrari (13 points, eight in the second half) and Kyle Shaffer, who scored eight of his 10 points in the second half as the Panthers pulled away from Weston Ranch (26-4).
The Panthers rallied back to take a 32-25 lead by halftime and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Ferrari gave Burlingame a 50-33 lead going into the final period.
Zerrion Payton led the Cougars with 12 points who were held to just 25 points in three periods after closing out the opening period with a 16-13 lead.
Burlingame advances to Thursday’s second-round game at El Cerrito (23-7), which dispatched Mission 76-62 in its opening-round game Tuesday.