best since Lin
The last time the Palo Alto boys' basketball team started the season 16-1, the Vikings finished on a 24-game winning streak, ended 32-1 and won the 2006 CIF Division II state championship behind Jeremy Lin and crew.
The Vikings once again are 16-1, ranked No. 35 in state Division I play and No. 7 overall in the Central Coast Section according to MaxPreps. There is no one named Lin on the team and no one is talking about state titles. At least not yet.
Right now, the focus is on the SCVAL De Anza Division race, which Paly (6-0) leads at the halfway point. The Vikings begin the second half of league play Friday against visiting Mountain View at 7:45 p.m.
Paly's next two games could well determine the league title. Mountain View is in third place at 4-2 and Saratoga (5-1) is second. The Vikings will visit the Falcons on Tuesday at 7 p.m. By handing Saratoga a second loss, Paly will have a two-game lead with four to play.
The Vikings tuned up for the stretch run with an impressive 79-60 victory over De Anza (Richmond) on Monday morning in the Martin Luther King Day Classic at Haas Pavilion on the Cal campus. The win was Paly's 14th straight.
Senior Aubrey Dawkins led the way with 23 points, six rebounds and four steals. The Vikings grabbed a 49-27 halftime lead and had 10 players score while registering one of their more impressive victories of the season. Paly shot 48 percent from the floor, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. Aldis Petriceks added 14 points and fellow senior Scott Peery made a trio of three-pointers while finishing with 11 points and four assists.
While Palo Alto is in control of its divisional race, the West Bay Athletic League is still very wide open with Sacred Heart Prep, Menlo School and Harker all tied for first with 5-1 marks.
That logjam won't survive the weekend because Menlo will host Harker on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Sacred Heart Prep, meanwhile, plays Crystal Springs (Friday) and Priory (Saturday) before action picks up next week.
The Gators remained tied for first place with a 54-43 win over host Priory on Wednesday. The Gators moved to 9-7 overall while the Panthers fell to 2-4 and 5-9.
SHP grabbed a 17-8 first-quarter lead maintained a solid advantage throughout. Ian Bennett led the way with 16 points with Ricky Galliani adding 11. Andy Dolezalek paced Priory with 16 points. The Panthers got to the free-throw line for only nine attempts (making six) while the Gators were 17 of 25.
In the PAL South Division, Oliver Bucka scored 14 points for Menlo-Atherton in a 58-43 loss to visiting Aragon. The Bears (1-4, 5-12) got to within 40-35 before the end of the third period, but no closer. Now, they face not making the Central Coast Section playoffs if they fail to have a .500 mark in either preseason or league.
Gunn fell two games behind first-place Lynbrook following a 68-45 blowout loss to visiting Wilcox on Wednesday night. The Titans (3-2, 10-5) fell into a two-way tie for third with Palo Alto as Wilcox improved to 4-2. Paly hosts Gunn on Friday at 6:15 p.m.
Gunn trailed by six after one quarter before the Chargers pulled ahead with a 20-8 advantage in the second quarter. The Titans failed to have a single player in double figures, with Zoe Zwerling coming close with nine.
In the WBAL, Eastside Prep remained tied for first place in the Foothill Division following a 64-40 victory over host Castilleja on Tuesday. The Panthers (4-1, 13-5) raced to a 20-9 first-quarter lead behind senior Hashima Carothers, who scored a season-high 30 points.
Castilleja (0-5, 3-15) was led by Paige Vermeer's 21 points while teammate Yasmeen Afifi had a career-high five blocks with seven rebounds and seven points.
In San Francisco, Sacred Heart Prep remained a game back of the WBAL leaders following a 30-28 victory over defending champ Mercy-San Francisco. The Gators (3-2, 15-4) trailed by four after one quarter before slowly pulling away. Sisters Meghan and Melissa Holland combined for 19 points to lead SHP, which won its third straight after opening WBAL play with back-to-back losses.