Uploaded: Thursday, January 31, 2013, 3:56 PM
Palo Alto boys face unique postseason in basketball
|By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
A familiar matchup in the Central Coast Section boys' basketball playoffs has been Palo Alto against Mitty. In the past 10 seasons, the schools have met five times in Division II action with the Monarchs holding a 3-2 edge in the series.
The Vikings' two victories came in the section finals, in 2005 and '06, the latter with Jeremy Lin in Paly's state championship season.
In recent years, however, Mitty has ended Palo Alto's season each time in the semifinals (2011, '10 and '07). Those losses prevented the Vikings from reaching the Northern California playoffs.
That will not happen this season, even if the teams meet again.
Thanks to its enrollment of 1,907 students, Palo Alto for the first time has been elevated from the CCS Division II playoffs to Division I thus escaping the Division II Monarchs.
Thanks to the new CIF and CCS Open Divisions, however, Paly and Mitty could meet once again. However, all the teams selected for the CCS Open Division will automatically qualify for NorCals -- either in the Open Division or their former section division.
Thus, Palo Alto has two chances to reach the NorCal playoffs this season for the first time since Lin-led 2006, and one of the opportunities is guaranteed.
To reach the CCS Open Division, all Palo Alto has to do is win the SCVAL De Anza Division. That accomplished, the Vikings are a lock for NorCals.
"I like that you are rewarded for winning league and going to NorCals," said Paly coach Adam Sax. "I really like that (the) Open Division is a tournament and not one and done!"
Thanks to Tuesday's 59-43 victory at second-place Saratoga on Tuesday night, Palo Alto will take an 8-0 league record, 18-1 overall mark and 16-game win streak into Friday's home game against Homestead at 7:45 p.m.
The 18-1 mark equals the third best (with 2006) in Paly history after 19 games. Only the 1993 team that finished 31-0 and the 1929 squad (19-0) were better.
Equally important, however, the Vikings have a two-game lead over the Falcons (6-2) with four to play.
Based on the MaxPreps computer rankings, Palo Alto appears a shoe-in to play in the CCS Open Division with Mitty, Serra, Bellarmine, Sacred Heart Cathedral, El Camino, Piedmont Hills and Half Moon Bay.
"It is going to be tough to play WCAL teams in the first round of the Open," said Sax.
But, unlike in previous years, a loss before the finals will not eliminate Palo Alto.
If the Vikings lose before the finals, they will advance to the NorCal Division I playoffs. A CIF selection committee will select eight boys' teams and eight girls for the NorCal Open Division playoffs.
Among the criteria to be selected includes: having won two straight section titles or qualified for NorCals three of the past four years; made the NorCal finals the previous season; or been ranked in the top 10 of Cal Hi Sports, MaxPreps or CalPreps.com rankings the past two seasons.
Palo Alto fits none of those and thus will play on in Division I for NorCals.
That, of course, means no Mitty standing in the way. Instead, it could be Piedmont Hills, Deer Valley or De La Salle providing a roadblock to the state finals.
"I like the system," said Sax. "It seems to have more parity."
For the girls, it's likely Eastside Prep and Pinewood could be included in the CCS Open Division. But, both teams are expected to return to Division V for their run at NorCal honors.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, continued one of the best seasons in school history as junior Keller Chryst came up with season highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds. Senior Aubrey Dawkins added 19 points for the Vikings.
Eilon Tzur added nine points for the Vikings. He and Chryst combined for 15 points in the third period to end any Saratoga comeback hopes.
Chryst won't have the opportunity to add to his effort as he'll miss Friday's home game against Homestead at 7:45 p.m. Instead, he'll be in New Orleans attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans. His father, Geep, is the quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
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