The casual observer at Tuesday night’s Burlingame Lions Club Invitational quarterfinal between Stuart Hall and Priory would have seen an undersized Knights team make an inspired push to come back from down double-digits before running out of gas in the fourth quarter.
The more nuanced spectator at Stuart Hall’s 57-43 loss to the Panthers would see that while the Knights still have some serious deficiencies, they’re starting to find their identity.
Much like the 2021-22 team that won the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division V Championship, it’s a small but scrappy group. This year’s team lacks the major scorers to make up for the graduation of Jackson Jung and Brandon Lum, though.
“Tonight, we just couldn’t make shots,” head coach Charley Johnson said. “We’re a thin group. It’s a lot of kids without varsity experience.”
While the margin of defeat resembled Saturday’s 51-32 loss to those same Panthers in the championship game of the Boonville Classic, it was an entirely different flow. Stuart Hall (3-3) fell into an early 16-4 hole, but trailed just 26-23 at halftime and took a short-lived 35-34 lead on a pair of Brett Jasper free throws with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
“We could have been buried,” Johnson commented on the pushback. “But I’m not big on the moral victories.”
Ultimately, Priory (6-0) did pull away. Rehan Parwani’s floater put the Panthers up 37-35 entering the final period, and Stuart Hall went scoreless until there was 2:05 remaining in the game. By then, the Panthers had taken full control with the first 11 points of the quarter, including threes by Ryder Bush, Parwani and Tayo Sobomehin.
“They turned up the pressure, and we struggled with that,” Johnson said. “Our go-to moments aren’t quite there yet.”
The Panthers went on a 23-5 run after Jasper’s free throw. Tim Rayford’s 3-pointer at the final buzzer ended that run and left the final margin at 14 rather than 17. Rayford, who’s still finding his land legs after spending most of November with the Knights’ 8-man football team, scored 10 points, as did Jasper. Sumner Estes added nine off the bench, including seven in the second half.
Five different scorers reached double figures for Priory. Rostand Olama Abanda scored all of his game-high 12 points in the first half, while Sobomehin scored all 12 of his points in the final two quarters. Parwani’s 11 all came in the second half. Bush and 6-foot-9 center Steve Emeneke each scored 10; Emeneke also had 12 rebounds and four blocks. Emeneke and Olama Abanda are each from Cameroon; Cameroonian native Yannick Atanga is an assistant coach for the Panthers, and he previously trained Riordan freshman Andrew Hilman.
Stuart Hall will have another rematch with a recent opponent in the tournament’s consolation bracket on Thursday. The Knights have a 3:30 p.m. tilt with Half Moon Bay (0-2). They beat the Cougars 73-64 last Wednesday. HMB star junior Jaeden Hutchins, a 6-foot-7 wing, has yet to make his season debut after fracturing his foot in the offseason.
Priory advances to the tournament semifinals and will face St. Francis-La Canada (9-1) on Thursday. Palo Alto (4-0) will face Hillsdale (4-0) in the other semifinal; Hillsdale beat Burlingame on Zach Clumeck’s tip-in at the buzzer.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]