Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - February 25, 2011

Palo Alto girls shooting for history in playoffs

Top-seeded Vikings hoping to follow up 12-0 league title with the program's first-ever section championship

by Keith Peters

Two years from going 7-13 and missing the Central Coast Section playoffs, the Palo Alto girls' basketball team is on top. The Vikings are riding the momentum of a SCVAL De Anza Division title and the first 12-0 record in school history.

Palo Alto also will take a 19-4 overall record and No. 1 seed into the Central Coast Section Division I quarterfinals on Saturday at Hartnell College in Salinas. This is the first No. 1 seed for the program at any level.

"We are very happy with it," said Paly coach Scott Peters. "One of the reasons we received the No. 1 seed was the wars we won against Gunn. They are a tough team that I expect will make it to the championship game. It is pretty cool to have two teams from Palo Alto in the top three seeds in the bracket."

The Vikings are expected to open against No. 8 seed Milpitas (13-11) from the SCVAL El Camino Division.

"I believe that for our girls to be successful in the playoffs, we have to treat each opponent as a dangerous threat," Peters said. "Once you start to play the game, your seed doesn't matter."

In the top half of the bracket is Gunn (17-5), which received the No. 3 seed and could face No. 6 San Benito (16-8) in the quarterfinals. A victory by the Titans likely would earn them a date with No. 2 Gilroy (21-1) in the semifinals, while Paly could face No. 4 Oak Grove (20-4).

The perfect scenario for Palo Alto, of course, would be to meet Gunn in the championship game on March 5 at Santa Clara University, with both teams then advancing to the NorCal playoffs. The Vikings already have beaten the Titans twice this season.

"I think the girls have done a great job this year of preparing to play each opponent and not taking teams for granted," said Peters, who hasn't enjoyed this much success since his 2006 team went 25-5, won 10 of its final 11 games, and lost to Mitty in the CCS Division II semifinals. "We always say before every game: 'This is the most important game of the year.' And the girls have bought into this. This has helped our focus throughout the year."

This may be unlike any Paly girls' team previously. The team has no individual star, no big point-scorer, and no one for opposing teams to concentrate on. This is a team in every sense of the word.

Eight players return from last season's 13-11 squad that lost in the second round of CCS. The Vikings picked up transfers Sydney Davis and Josie Butler, plus freshman Danielle Butler to go with veterans Lindsay Black, Shamelia Clay, Katerina Peterson, Emilee Osagiede and Mariah Philips. Add in Stephanie Allen, Mary Albertolle and Sam Borsos and Peters has a deep lineup that pressures opposing teams into mistakes.

Palo Alto is only 6-8 in CCS play during the past 10 years and has never played in a section championship game. The Vikings are only two wins from reaching the finals and only three wins away from making school history with their first-ever CCS crown and NorCal berth.

The Palo Alto girls aren't the only No. 1 seeds from the local area. The Sacred Heart Prep and Pinewood boys also received top seeds in Division IV and V, respectively, while the Pinewood girls are No. 1 in Division V.

The SHP boys (22-2) won't open until Saturday, where they will play the winner of No. 8 Half Moon Bay (18-9) and No. 9 Monte Vista Christian (15-14) at Menlo School. A victory means a likely date with No. 4 Carmel (20-4) in the semifinals. Sacred Heart Prep is the defending champion and a heavy favorite to repeat.

In the half of the bracket, Menlo School (12-13) is seeded No. 6 and opened last night.

The Pinewood boys (19-5), who finished second to SHP in the West Bay Athletic League this season, will begin defense of their No. 1 seed on Saturday at St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic in Watsonville. The Panthers will face the winner of No. 8 Jewish Community (15-7) and No. 9 Alma Heights (11-11), both from the Private Schools Athletic League.

Should Pinewood reach the semifinals as expected, it will face another WBAL team —either No. 5 Priory (10-11) or No. 4 Crystal Springs (12-12). Pinewood has beaten both teams twice already this season.

Also in Division V is No. 11 Eastside Prep (7-18), which eliminated No. 14 G.B. Kirby of Santa Cruz, 59-31 on Tuesday. Kyle Carter led Eastside with 14 points. The Panthers needed a victory on Thursday to advance to Saturday's quarterfinals against No. 3 Mid-Peninsula (19-2).

In boys' Division I, No. 11 Menlo-Atherton (13-13) opened with a 46-38 win over No. 14 Carlmont (16-9) on Tuesday.

In boys' Division II, SCVAL De Anza Division champ Palo Alto (18-6) is seeded No. 4 and will open Saturday, most likely against No. 5 Cupertino (17-7), the only team to beat the Vikings during the league season. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be at Foothill College.

The Vikings, however, are in the same half of the bracket as No. 1 Mitty (25-2), the team that eliminated Paly in last season's semifinals. Should both teams win on Saturday, they'll meet in the semis again on Tuesday, also at Foothill.

The girls' Division V race once again looks to be between Pinewood (21-5) and No. 2 Eastside Prep (19-7). Pinewood will have homecourt advantage in the quarters and semifinals, opening Saturday against either No. 8 Summit Prep (10-7) or No. 9 Anzar (8-14). Eastside Prep will face the winner of No. 7 Jewish Community (13-6) and No. 10 East Palo Alto Academy (7-4) while No. 3 Castilleja (12-14) will take on either No. 6 Pacific Collegiate (13-10) or Kehillah Jewish (9-8).

Should Eastside Prep and Castilleja advance as expected, they'll meet in the semifinals on March 2 in Los Altos Hills.

Pinewood earned the No. 1 seed by beating Eastside Prep, 43-40, for the WBAL playoff title last Saturday.

In Division IV, two more WBAL teams will be vying for honors there. Sixth-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (12-10) opened Thursday at home against No. 11 Harker (20-4). On Saturday, No. 4 Menlo School (16-10) likely will face WBAL opponent Mercy-San Francisco (18-8), seeded fifth, at Notre Dame-Belmont.

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