As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard Wednesday night in the Burlingame High School gym, Dana Michaels and Nina Newman shared a big hug near the team bench — the two grinning from ear to ear.
Revenge, no matter how you slice it, is always very sweet.
The smiles floating around the Burlingame bench were a complete contrast to the tears shed three weeks ago when Mills shocked the Panthers and handed them their lone Peninsula Athletic League loss this season by simply out-willing them for the win.
On Wednesday during Senior Night, it was a completely different story.
Burlingame steam-rolled the Vikings 43-24 to avenge the earlier loss. It was a game the Panthers controlled from the tip-off on the defensive side of the ball. Come the second half, the Panthers already led 27-10 after Mills did not score a single point in the second quarter.
"My seniors hadn’t beat Mills so it was a big deal for them,” said Burlingame head coach Bill Lepeltak. "We rebounded the ball and that keyed our break. We were patience. Usually, we just fire the ball up. And in the second half, we played smart. We eliminated anything from happening that could have caused us to lose the game. We played incredibly smart. We didn’t play great, but we were smart.”
"We came out strong like we wanted it really badly,” said Michaels, who finished with seven points. "At halftime, our coach said it was 0-0 on the scoreboard we have to work hard and keep doing what we were doing.”
"It was just a brutal game all the way around,” said Mills head coach Dave Matsu. "We played terrible. It was ridiculous. They came out. They punched us in the face. They wanted it more than we did. I tip my hat to (Burlingame). They played a great game. They scared our girls.”
The Panthers came out and led by 10 before Mills could get a decent sweat going. With 1:13 left, a Michaels’ 3-pointer gave Burlingame the double-digit advantage and it was cut to seven right before the first quarter buzzer.
But it was then that Mills went on an uncomfortable run of offensive basketball. The Vikings shot 0 for 11 from the floor in the second quarter and did not score a point — they didn’t even get to the free throw line. The entire period was a 10-0 run for the Panthers.
"Offensively, we couldn’t buy a basket,” Matsu said. "When we don’t score, our morale gets down. We have no energy when we don’t score. It’s been a tough year. We haven’t been scoring like we’re used to.”
"I think our defense was strong and we worked really hard on offense to get the ball to Lauren (Rally) and I,” Michaels said. "Lauren had some good drives. Sarah (Gogarty) had good passes. We just worked well together.”
The drought continued until the 6:23 mark of the third quarter for Mills when Julia Gibbs finally hit a little hook in the lane. But by then, the Panthers led 31-12.
Burlingame dominated the glass throughout the game, outrebounding 33-24. After shooting just 18 percent for the first half, the Vikings actually shot worse in the second, going 3 of 32 from the field.
"We live and die by playing defense,” Matsu said. "We don’t play defense, we don’t get stops, we can’t score on the other end. We’re a small team. When you get out-rebounded and out-hustled, it makes for a long game. We lost by 20-something — we should have lost by 40.
"They were the better team tonight. I’m just more disappointed that my team gave a terrible effort tonight.”
Rally led the Panthers with 14 points. Nora Gustafson was huge for Burlingame. She scored 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
The win for Burlingame keeps them a game behind first place Woodside. The two are scheduled to meet next week in the regular-season finale.