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Crosstown basketball rivalry decided in overtime

Menlo-Atherton guard Jalen Williams (12) defends Sacred Heart Prep guard TJ O’Brien (21) during the second quarter of a non-league basketball game in Atherton on Jan. 7, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

Saturday night marked the first meeting between Menlo-Atherton and Sacred Heart Prep’s boys basketball teams since 2019, and it was worth the wait.

JP Kerrigan’s 3-pointer in the dying seconds of regulation forced overtime, and the host Sacred Heart Prep Gators escaped with a 52-51 win after Menlo-Atherton’s last-gasp chance rolled off the rim.

“When we let our energy come from the defensive end, it doesn’t matter if we’re scoring or not,” said Kerrigan, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half. “We can stay in any game.”

Sacred Heart Prep (5-4) trailed by seven at the start of the fourth quarter, but drew even at 39 with a 7-0 run, capped off by the third of Kerrigan’s four 3-pointers. The Bears responded to take a 44-42 lead on back-to-back baskets by Allen Chang and Johno Price, then stretched the lead to 48-45 after Grant Zell’s putback of a missed free throw with 16.2 seconds remaining.

After a Menlo-Atherton (7-2) timeout, Kerrigan took a pass from TJ O’Brien, waited for a Bear defender to rush by him and sank the game-tying 3-pointer, which fell through with just over seven seconds remaining in regulation.

“They kind of flew by me,” Kerrigan said of the critical shot.

The Gators had a foul to give, and wisely used it with 3.2 seconds left, and M-A’s half-court heave missed, sending the game to overtime.

Just seven total points were scored in the four-minute overtime period: Erick Osterloh made two free throws to put SHP up 50-48, and after Price split a pair of free throws, Sam Norris scored in the paint to give the Gators a three-point lead. Price answered at the other end, but Osterloh drew a charge to keep the Gators in front.

Jalen Williams was fouled with 8.8 seconds left, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Price got the offensive rebound, and after a failed putback, the ball went out of bounds off the Gators. The referees conferred and put six-tenths of a second back on the clock, and though the Bears got an open mid-range look from the ensuing inbound play, the shot hit the rim twice before falling away.

The Bears made just seven of their 21 free throw attempts on the night. Price led all players with 17 points and seven rebounds, Chang scored nine and Williams added eight. Had M-A won, Chang would have been the hero. He matched up well with Norris, a Pomona-Pitzer commit, and played additional minutes with fellow center Meka Okereke unavailable.

M-A outscored the Gators 15-6 in the second quarter to take a 24-18 lead into the half and led by nine on two occasions in the third. Ben Eisner’s 3-pointer put the Bears up 29-20, and Chang’s putback made it 31-22.

Kerrigan led the Gators with 15, Norris finished with 11 and O’Brien added nine. Osterloh finished with eight points, grabbed six rebounds and drew three charges. In a game where every point mattered, sophomore Alex Straser’s lone basket, a 3-pointer at the buzzer to close the first quarter, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Both teams open league play next week. Sacred Heart Prep hosts Priory (13-1) at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday to open West Bay Athletic League (WBAL) play. The Gators and Panthers have combined to win at least a share of the WBAL crown in each of the last three seasons. Menlo-Atherton opens Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) South Division play at home on Wednesday against Capuchino (1-10).