Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 9, 2012

A championship season remains alive

Fresh from their first-ever CCS title, Gunn girls roll into second round of NorCals after a 35-33 opening win

by Keith Peters

There have been teams with better records, like the 2008 squad that went 26-3. And there have been teams that have come close to reaching the state finals, like the '09 unit that reached the NorCal semifinals.

Yet, the 2011-2012 Gunn girls' basketball team has its own niche in school history and there are still pages that could be filled in the record book.

The Titans of today are the only hoop team, boys or girls, in school history to win a Central Coast Section championship. That happened last Saturday night when Gunn held off defending champ Palo Alto, 41-39, in the Division I finals at Santa Clara University's Leavey Center.

That victory earned the Titans a No. 7 seed into the CIF NorCal Division I playoffs, and Gunn made the most of that opportunity with a 35-33 triumph over No. 10 seed Mission San Jose on Wednesday in the Titans' gym.

Now, for only the second time in school history, Gunn is headed for a second-round NorCal game. The 2009 team, which finished 29-2 with Jasmine Evans, reached the NorCal semifinals before losing.

Gunn coach Sarah Stapp, who coached both the '08 and '09 teams, will take her current squad to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Saturday to face No. 2 Lowell (25-4) at historic Kezar Pavilion at 6 p.m.

The showdown will provide Gunn (20-6) with an opportunity to avenge a 45-43 loss to Lowell at the Burlingame Tournament earlier this season. This will be the fifth meeting in the past five years between the two teams, with each winning twice.

"We're familiar with each other," said Stapp. "We have played them in the past and we played them earlier this year. We're going to be playing in a unique venue in Kezar."

Gunn will be one of five local teams playing on Saturday.

In Division IV boys, No. 3-seeded Sacred Heart Prep (21-6) will host No. 6 St. Patrick/St. Vincent (20-11) at 7 p.m. The visitors from Vallejo advanced with a 50-48 win over Riverbank on Wednesday. SHP opened its season with a 60-56 over St. Patrick/St. Vincent and has to hope it won't be ending its season against the same team.

At stake is a berth in Tuesday's semifinals, likely at No. 2 seed Modesto Christian.

Sacred Heart Prep earned its NorCal seed after winning a third straight section title with a 53-44 win over Half Moon Bay on Friday.

In Division V, the No. 2 seed Pinewood boys (25-2) will begin NorCal action against No. 7 University-San Francisco (21-10) at 7 p.m. University advanced with a 79-77 win over Ripon Christian on Wednesday and also has a history with Pinewood, having eliminated the Panthers in last season's NorCal second round.

Thus, payback will be on the minds of Pinewood coach Jason Peery and his players as they continue their quest for a possible berth in the state finals for the first time in program history. The Panthers cruised into NorCal play after winning their second straight section title, 74-57 victory over St. Francis-Central Coast Catholic behind Kevin Sweat's 25 points.

The Eastside Prep girls are in a similar situation. The Panthers (15-14) are seeded No. 2 in Division V and will open NorCal play on Saturday against No. 7 Ripon Christian (22-5), which (coincidently) eliminated University-SF, 50-41. Eastside Prep, like the Pinewood boys, is searching for its first-ever state berth, as well, after knocking off defending champ Pinewood, 41-28, in the CCS finals last Saturday morning.

The Pinewood girls, who not only have reached the state finals but won five times (most in Division V state history), times, will be back in action Saturday on the road against No. 4 Hamilton (30-0) at 7 p.m. The Panthers (19-12) kept their state hopes alive with a 61-37 romp over No. 12 San Domenico of San Anselmo on Wednesday.

The Gunn girls, only a few days removed from their historic CCS championship, raced to an early 16-2 lead but lost it before rallying to keep their season alive.

"That game was a battle," said Stapp. "Even after falling behind, our girls were determined and played through the end to get the win."

Gunn held a 24-14 lead in the third quarter before the Warriors (27-4) grabbed a 31-28 lead with five minutes left. Despite trailing 33-30 with a little over three minutes left, Gunn dug deep and held Mission San Jose scoreless while scoring the final five points of the game.

With 1:30 left, Gunn's Claire Klausner scored to cut the lead to 33-32 and, after stopping Mission San Jose, Zoe Zwerling drove the right side, pulled up 10 feet from the basket and drained a jumper to put Gunn up for good.

With 21 seconds remaining, Zwerling was fouled and went to the line for a one-and-one. After making the first shot, Zwerling missed the second setting up the dramatic final finish.

Mission San Jose brought the ball up and called a timeout with 4.8 seconds left. On the Warriors' final effort they set up a play for Alexa Iwatani, whose three-point attempt was blocked cleanly by Gunn junior Emily Redfield as the clock expired.

While Gunn was advancing in Division I, Palo Alto was not. Despite getting 25 points from senior Emilee Osagiede, the No. 8-seeded Vikings saw their season end in the first round following a 66-56 loss to No. 9 seed Pleasant Grove (22-9) in the Vikings' gym.

The Vikings (19-6) held a 21-15 first-quarter lead and a 31-30 advantage at the half, but got into foul trouble and sent the visitors to the line for 34 free-throw attempts, of which 25 were made. Paly, on the other hand, missed 15 of 24 attempts.

Paly, however, still trailed by only 42-40 entering the final quarter and Osagiede poured in 11 points in the period in an attempt to keep her team close. Following a basket by Osagiede, Paly got to within 56-55 before junior Stephanie Allen made one of two free throws to tie the game at 56. At that point, the Eagles went on a 10-0 run to put the game away.

In Division V, two-time defending CIF Division V state champion Pinewood kept its hopes alive for a repeat performance by eliminating No. 12 seed San Domenico of San Anselmo, 61-37.

Senior Jenny Hansen made seven 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 21 points to pace the Panthers, surpassing her previous best of 16. Sophomore Leeana Bade added 13 points while freshman Marissa Hing made a trio of three-pointers and finished with 11. Kelly Doran, one of only two seniors on the team, added nine points on three treys for the Panthers.

Pinewood held a 35-25 halftime lead and then outscored the visitors, 15-2, in the third quarter to put the game away.

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