Three nights after dropping its most important game of the season and missing out on a share of a league title, the Gunn High girls' basketball team bounced back by halting a long losing streak to its crosstown rival.
The Titans ended eight years of frustration that saw them lose 12 straight to Palo Alto by humbling the visiting Vikings, 43-19, in SCVAL De Anza Division game Monday night.
Utilizing its size and speed, Gunn (7-2, 21-2) ended those years of futility against Palo Alto (4-5, 7-12) with its convincing victory. It was a bittersweet win for the Titans after losing the opportunity to possibly share the division following a 62-47 setback to first-place Wilcox (8-0, 18-3) last Friday.
Both of Gunn's losses this season were to Wilcox, including a Jan. 11 loss, 34-30. Gunn trails Wilcox by two games with just four league games remaining.
"It was huge to have this game and bounce back," second-year Gunn coach Sarah Stapp said after the Paly win. "We all focused on Paly."
Gunn was fortunate to play Paly in a meaningful game just 72 hours after the Wilcox loss, allowing the Titans to rid themselves of that disappointment. There was a lot on the line Monday -- Paly needs to finish at least .500 in league to qualify for the CCS playoffs and Gunn wanted to stop the losing streak while keeping its hopes alive for a lofty seed in the upcoming CCS Division II playoffs.
Paly, which is young and has had its share of inconsistency this season, came in Monday with a two-game win streak. The Vikings now have to win two of their final three games in order to have a shot at the postseason. Paly played Los Gatos on Tuesday, faces Fremont next week and finishes against Gunn on Feb. 15 at Paly.
"We're a young team and we try to execute, but we couldn't handle Gunn's pressure as we would have liked," said Paly coach Scott Peters.
Monday's game was ugly in all phases. The two schools combined for 43 turnovers, shot a combined 25 of 85 (27 percent) from the field and 2 of 17 (12 percent) from beyond the three-point arc. Paly connected on only eight of 27 shots, while Gunn was 17 of 58.
Paly wanted to slow down the tempo and did a good job in the first quarter, trailing just 6-4. The Titans then started to force miscues and limited Paly to just six field-goal attempts in the game's first 10 minutes en route to a 21-10 halftime lead. The lead increased to 29-10 after Gunn held Paly scoreless in the third quarter. The Vikings went scoreless for a period of 11:30 in the second half.
Gunn senior guard Ilana Cartun got Gunn going in the second half by making the Titans' first three field goals in the third quarter. Junior guard Jasmine Evans and senior center Neva Hauser led Gunn with 11 points apiece. Evans added five steals and Hauser grabbed 13 rebounds.
On Friday, Wilcox came out hot and never blinked in its huge win over Gunn. The Chargers connected on eight of their first 10 shots from the field to open up a 21-10 first-quarter lead. The lead inflated to 38-23 at the half as Wilcox made its first five three-pointers via five different players and shot 62.5 percent (15 of 24) from the field in the first 16 minutes.
Wilcox was led by 6-foot sophomore guard Deanna Weaver, who tossed in 26 points, had 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. Gunn made just nine of 29 shots (32 percent) in the first half and couldn't recover after the Chargers' remarkable start.
"They couldn't miss," said Stapp. "We needed to be fundamentally sound. They have the athletes and they made the shots."
Evans, who was held to a season-low two points by Wilcox a month ago, led Gunn with 19 points and seven steals as Hauser added 17 points.
Also on Friday, Paly got a career-high 26 points from senior Liz Slater in a 53-43 triumph at Milpitas. On Monday, Slater was held to just four points by Gunn.
At the Bentley Shootout on Saturday in Lafayette:
The Eastside Prep girls (26-1) showed they are ready for a run at their first-ever CCS Division V title by overwhelming Head Royce, 55-24. The tournament brings together many of the top Division V teams in Northern California.
Senior Sam Bunch led Eastside Prep with 20 points with sophomore Felicia Anderson adding 17 and freshman Ahjalee Harvey 16. Shayla Bunch tossed in the final two points. The Panthers raced to a 16-1 lead after one quarter and led, 36-15, at halftime. With a CCS berth already locked up, Eastside Prep will bypass the CPSAL tournament while preparing for CCS, which starts in three weeks.
Earlier, Castilleja freshman Natasha von Kaeppler scored 10 of her career-high 21 points in the first quarter to spark the Gators to a 51-47 victory over Rincon Valley Christian.
The Gators took the lead for good midway through the second quarter by reeling off 11 straight points. Senior Lindsay Taylor sparked the run with seven points. She was making her first start after missing the past three games due to illness.
Castilleja junior Ericka von Kaeppler pulled down 10 rebounds and dished a career-high five assists while Natasha added nine rebounds. Taylor scored 13 points and had six steals.
The Pinewood girls, meanwhile, ran into a 6-foot-8 center and a very hot Liberty Christian team and fell, 67-57. Liberty Christian (21-1) outscored Pinewood (13-8) by 23-5 in the third quarter to erase a 27-25 halftime deficit. The Panthers heated up again in the fourth quarter, scoring 25 points to make it close. Lindsay Nickel (18 points) and Hailie Eackles (15) led Pinewood. Eackles made four of the team's 13 three-pointers.
The Pinewood girls' basketball team moved closer to its final title in the Private Schools Athletic League with a 65-19 victory over visiting King's Academy on Monday.
The Panthers (6-0, 14-8) will move to the West Bay Athletic League starting next school year.
Pinewood led by 17-0 after one quarter and 36-6 at halftime. Junior Lindsay Nickel scored a career-best 27 points with freshman Hailie Eackles added 16.
Pinewood will host Soquel in a nonleague game (7 p.m.) on Tuesday night.
Menlo took over sole possession of first place in the PAL South Division with a 40-38 victory over host Carlmont on Friday night.
Max Frye muscled in a layup with 39 seconds to play to carry the Knights (7-1, 17-6) to victory over the Scots (6-2). Frye led Menlo with 15 points.
Carlmont held a 36-31 lead with 4:26 to play, but Menlo scored seven straight points, with a three-pointer by Alex Smith putting the Knights on top (38-36) with 1:50 remaining.
Menlo can wrap up the undisputed title by beating Woodside (4-4) and Half Moon Bay (1-7) this week. Carlmont and Menlo-Atherton (6-2, 14-9) are tied for second. The will break that tie Wednesday when they meet on the Scots' floor at 4:45 p.m.