Herbert Hoover began his Presidential campaign in 1929, the same year that the Paly Gym opened its doors -- 85 years ago. Friday night marked the last regular-season game at the long-standing gym for the Palo Alto boys' basketball team, and they came away with a 54-52 win over Los Gatos.
The Vikings finished their regular season at 8-4 (14-10 overall) while Los Gatos ended the year at 4-8 (13-11 overall). Paly secured a second place tie with Milpitas in the SCVAL De Anza Division and an automatic Central Coast Section playoff berth.
"We think this gym was a huge home-court advantage so we're going to lose that next year," said Palo Alto head coach Adam Sax. "The perception of this gym and shooting the ball was a little confounding for some other teams that came in -- it was a big advantage for us. Hopefully, we can find another gym that we can do some things in."
Palo Alto will have to play all its home games in 2014-15 on the road while its new athletics center is being built.
The Vikings made their farewell a good one by holding off Los Gatos in a must-win game.
With 23.9 left in the fourth quarter, senior center Matt Fogarty played heads-up defense and took a charge for the Vikings, securing the late lead for Palo Alto at 53-50.
The Wildcats cut the Vikings' lead to one point with 18.1 left when senior Eric Dodds stole the ball, got fouled and sank both free throws. Paly junior Kevin Mullin converted one of two free throws, giving the Vikings the 54-52 lead.
Los Gatos had a chance to win the game on a wide-open 3-point shot from senior Michael Aguiar, but it ricocheted off the front rim and Paly had its ticket to CCS.
"It was nice to see the seniors get a 'W' tonight," said Sax. "We were a little undersized this year, but they really battled. We didn't have any returning starters but these guys just kept getting better after every game."
Mullin led the way Friday with 24 points. He nailed his ninth point of the first quarter on a 3-pointer giving his team the 16-10 edge to end the period. Mullin drained three 3-pointers in the game and ended the season averaging 2.6 per game.
"We know when he gets it going we're going to try to get the ball to him as much as we can and we did that pretty well tonight," said Sax.
Mullin got the Viking crowd into it when he hit another three with 3.0 left in the first half, giving Paly the 29-16 lead going into halftime. The Vikings' defense was sturdy against the Wildcats and allowed only six points in the second quarter.
Senior Keesean Johnson added 10 points on Senior Night. Also wrapping up their home careers were Noah Phillips, Clark Schmutz and Fogarty.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep took advantage of a second chance to earn a tie for the league title by posting a 64-47 victory over visiting King's Academy on Friday night.
The Gators (12-2, 17-7) wrapped up a co-title with Pinewood after the Panthers were knocked out of sole possession of first place after a loss to Harker on Thursday night.
SHP blew the game open with a 27-point second quarter and junior James McLean led all scorers with 22 points. Senior Walker Barnum knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points while junior Corbin Koch added 13.
SHP coach Tony Martinelli said he didn't have any specific to tell his players before the game.
"(I) just complimented them on how they handled our loss to Pinewood (the Gators' first league loss) and that we got an opportunity to do something about it," he said. "My Grandpa used to tell me John Wooden's quote: 'Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.' Seemed to fit our situation."
Elsewhere in the WBAL, host Menlo School celebrated Senior Night by making quick work of Crystal Springs, 66-27. The Knights finished the regular season with a 10-4 league record (11-13 overall) after forging a 21-8 first-period lead.
Wes Miller had a team-high 16 points and fellow senior Alex Grossman was perfect from the field, tallying 14 points, shooting 6 of 6. Liam Dunn added 13 points for the Knights. Miller, Dunn and Charlie Roth each pulled down five rebounds.
The Priory at Eastside Prep game was not reported.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, host Gunn dropped a 73-43 decision to Wilcox. The Titans (4-8, 12-12) wrapped up their regular season by dropping five of their final six games.