The Burlingame High School boys’ basketball team lost all five starters to graduation, including Rodrigo Puliceno and Kyle Shaffer, from last year’s Central Coast Section runner-up team, but that does not mean it won’t continue to be in the title picture.
“We’re a very different team [than last year],” Burlingame coach Jeff Dowd said. “They understand we have high expectations around here. We have lots of potential.”
If it hopes to replicate the success of last season, Burlingame will have to rely on the performances of returning sophomores Frankie Ferrari and Nick Loew.
“If those guys play well, I’m hoping our older guys will step up,” Dowd said.
The pair led the Panthers to a 61-49 win in their season opener against Riordan in the 53rd Crusader Classic on Wednesday.
Ferrari dropped 21 points and dished out six assists, while Loew picked up a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Crusaders.
Dowd said he has 10 players he thinks can contribute, but will be narrowing it down to eight as the season wears on.
“If you want to earn minutes, you have to take care of the ball,” Dowd said.
In that first game, the Panthers turned the ball over 24 times and Riordan had “way too many second-chance opportunities,” Dowd said.
Burlingame will not be as physical of a team this season, but Dowd said his team has already proven to be a better shooting team than a year ago.
The Panthers have been one win away from a CCS championship each of the past three years, falling each time to Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Burlingame is coming off a Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title and a trip to the second round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division III playoffs before losing 46-43 to El Cerrito.
The Crusader Classic is one of four tournaments with top-tier opponents that Burlingame will take part in before league play begins.
“We’re definitely going to be tested,” Dowd said. “We need guys who value the basketball, defend.”
The best of the tournaments is the seventh annual DJ Frandsen Memorial Classic, beginning Dec. 22, highlighted by host Bellarmine, Willow Glen and the defending Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza champion, Palo Alto.
The Panthers will also play host to the Burlingame Lions Tournament and participate in St. Ignatius’ 36th Leo LaRocca Sand Dunes Classic.
They will also play West Catholic Athletic League power Serra in a single nontournament game on Dec. 16.
Burlingame has been to the CCS title game six times in the past nine years without claiming a championship.