in the race
When the Gunn girls' basketball team opened their SCVAL De Anza Division season with back-to-back losses to Wilcox and Palo Alto, it appeared the Titans might be in for a long season.
Since that rough start, however, Gunn has won six straight and now finds itself tied for second place and only a game out of first.
The Titans made that happen by toppling rival Palo Alto, 52-42, on Wednesday night to end a four-game losing streak to the Vikings.
The Titans improved to 6-2 (12-5 overall) to join Paly (6-2, 13-4) in second place and avenge that earlier loss in the teams' first meeting this season. The Vikings also had beaten the Titans three times last season, including in the CCS Division I championship game.
Gunn, however, knocked off previously unbeaten Wilcox last weekend and rode momentum from that victory into Wednesday's game. The Chargers remain in first place at 6-1 (16-1) heading into Friday's game (6:15 p.m.) at Palo Alto. The Vikings can force a three-way tie for first with a victory.
Sophomore Zoe Zwerling led the Titans with 14 points and sparked a 7-2 fourth-run that gave Gunn a double-digit lead. The Titans also did a solid defensive effort on Paly's Emilee Osagiede, who was limited to seven points while none of her teammates reached double figures.
"I'm pleased with how we played tonight," Gunn coach Sarah Stapp said on gunntitans.com. "Earlier in the year we didn't face up to the challenges, but now we are and it's making a difference. I'm happy with all aspects of our game tonight. We were aggressive, made key free throws and played as a team. This is something we have do from here on out as there are no easy games in the De Anza."
Every time it appeared that Paly would make a run, Gunn would convert a key basket to squelch the threat. The Titans were helped by the all-out play of senior Julia Maggioncalda, who was all over the court creating havoc for the Vikings.
Leading 33-27 to start the third, Gunn scored two baskets to build a commanding lead. The first came on another Zwerling three-pointer, followed by a pass by Zwerling to a cutting Sarah Klem, who in the air immediately directed the pass to Cat Perez underneath for an easy score to make the lead 38-27.
Paly still hung tough and wouldn't go away and with a little over two minutes cut the lead to 42-36 on a trey by Stephanie Allen. The Vikings then chose to foul while hoping that Gunn would miss, but it wasn't to be as Perez, Claire Klausner, Zwerling and Maggioncalda converted seven straight free throws to wrap things up.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division):
With only three games remaining in the regular season, Mercy-San Francisco (6-1, 20-1) has taken control with a two-game lead following a 57-47 victory over visiting Sacred Heart Prep on Tuesday night.
That victory, coupled with Pinewood's crazy 40-39 win over Eastside Prep and Menlo's 53-28 win over Notre Dame-San Jose, left three teams tied for second with 4-3 marks.
Eastside Prep (4-3, 11-11) appeared to be best-suited to challenge Mercy-SF, with the teams meeting in the last game of the regular season. Pinewood, however, ruined that by beating the Panthers after apparently losing Tuesday's game.
Eastside Prep held a 39-38 lead with less than three seconds to play when the Panthers' Anisah Smith was knocked to the floor following a collision with a Pinewood player as the clock ran out. Tempers flared on the Eastside bench when no foul was called on Pinewood. An assistant was hit with a technical foul for profanity and then head coach Donovan Blythe, who walked onto the court to ask for an explanation, was issued a technical foul for not leaving the floor after being asked three times by a referee. Since the technical on his assistant reverts to head coach, Blythe was ejected.
Despite having no time left on the clock, Pinewood was awarded four free throws for the two technical fouls. Pinewood freshman Marissa Hing missed the first and made the next two for a 40-39 victory.
Hing finished with 13 points as did sophomore Leeana Bade, whose three-pointer got her team to within 39-38 to set up the final wild moments. Hashima Carothers and Charmaine Bradford split 24 points for Eastside Prep.
Eastside Prep, however, lost more than just a game. Bradford, Smith and Carothers all re-injured themselves and Blythe said all three will be lost for the remainder of the season. Blythe, meanwhile, cannot coach in Friday's game at Notre Dame-San Jose due to the ejection.
In San Francisco, Sacred Heart Prep had a chance to tighten the race and move to within one game of first place. The Skippers, however, pulled away to a 38-25 halftime lead and weren't threatened after that. Melissa Holland tallied 13 points to pace the Gators (4-3, 14-7).
In Atherton, Menlo pulled into a three-way tie for second with a victory over Notre Dame-San Jose. Junior Drew Edelman scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Knights (4-3, 13-7) while point guard Lauren Lete added 15 points and five assists. Maddy Price, making only her third start of the season, contributed seven rebounds and five points.
In the WBAL Skyline Division, host Castilleja saw its lead dwindle after a 47-44 loss to second-place Harker. The Gators (5-2, 10-10) overcame a 13-point halftime deficit, but couldn't pull off the victory. Castilleja is playing without starter Riya Modi, sidelined the rest of the season with a knee injury.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton traveled to Pacifica to face first-place Terra Nova and dropped a 57-31 decision. Tennyson Jellins led the Bears (2-5, 8-13) with 13 points while the Tigers improved to 7-0 (15-5).
Palo Alto continued its mastery over rival Gunn and got a helping hand while taking over first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division with a closer-than-expected 65-54 victory over host Gunn on Wednesday night.
The Vikings (7-1, 17-2) moved closer to defending its division title after erstwhile co-leader Mountain View (6-2, 15-5) suffered a 58-39 loss to Los Gatos.
Gunn (0-8, 6-14) shot well in the first half and kept things close, trailing only 32-29 at intermission. The Vikings took over in the third period and went on an 11-2 run that was triggered by a three-pointer from Mathias Schmutz, who finished with a season-high 20 points.
It was 47-35 entering the fourth quarter and Paly pushed its lead to 21 points at one point. Aubrey Dawkins added 16 points for the Vikings while fellow junior E.J. Floreal contributed 13 and senior Israel Hakim had 10. Gunn senior Shang Yip led all scorers with 22 points, but the Titans nonetheless dropped their 11th straight game. Palo Alto, meanwhile, won its sixth straight and 11th in the past 12 games.
In the PAL Ocean Division, Dominic Tully produced 18 points and 10 rebounds and Miles Weiss dished out six assists, but it wasn't enough as Menlo-Atherton dropped a 54-49 decision to host South San Francisco.
The showdown is all set for the WBAL title and the contenders appear all set after posting solid victories on Tuesday night.
Pinewood held on to first place with a 83-29 demolition of last-place Crystal Springs while second-place Sacred Heart Prep took care of host King's Academy, 56-47.
That sets up Friday's confrontation in Atherton between the No. 1 Panthers (8-0, 17-1) and No. 2 Gators (7-2, 14-5) at 7:30 p.m.
Menlo School, meanwhile, could benefit from that game as the Knights (7-2, 14-5) are tied with SHP and still have games remaining against Pinewood and Sacred Heart.
SHP tuned up by outscoring King's Academy by 29-15 in the second half. The Gators got 20 points from Cole McConnell and 14 from Pat Bruni while bouncing back from a 32-27 halftime deficit.
In Los Altos Hills, Pinewood won its 13th straight game as Kevin Sweat drilled six 3-pointers on the way to a 20-point outing. Solomone Wolfgramm and Cameron Helvey each added 12 points for the Panthers as the starters played less than half the game and none committed a turnover.
In Atherton, Menlo bounced back in the fourth quarter to win its fourth straight game. Hit by illness — four players missed practice on Monday — the Knights got off to a slow start and fell behind by 30-23 at halftime.
In Portola Valley, host Priory got 18 points from Gabor Somogyi in a 37-32 victory over Eastside Prep. Priory improved to 4-4 (8-5) while the visiting Panthers fell to 2-7 (12-7).