By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Sarah Stapp and Scott Peters knew the showdown between their girls basketball teams would come down to turnovers and defense on Friday night. And, they were right.
Stapp watched her Gunn squad turn the ball over too many times while Peters watched his Paly team play the better defense. The result was a 47-39 victory by the host Vikings (5-0, 12-4), who not only took over sole possession of first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division but snapped a six-game losing streak to the Titans (5-1, 13-3).
"Anytime you can beat Gunn, it is a good victory," Peters said. " Stapp does a great job coaching them up, so if you can beat them you have done something right."
Palo Alto overcame a five-point halftime deficit with a swarming fullcourt defense in the second half. While both teams combined for 51 turnovers, Paly committed only seven after intermission while Gunn had 19 of its 29.
"We played man and trapped certain situations," said Peters. "I think the game was played so hard by both teams (along with high emotions). That may be why it looked so sloppy."
The Vikings trailed by five at the half and again at 25-20 in the third quarter, during which Paly outscored Gunn 20-6. Paly freshman Danielle Palmer made a basket and the ensuing free throw for a 28-25 lead with 3:57 left in the third quarter. Paly never trailed after that.
The Titans got to within 38-33 on a basket by Nora Shevick, but Gunn killed its chances of any further comeback by turning the ball over six times without a basket as the Vikings built their lead to 42-33. When Gunn got to within 44-39 with under a minute to play, a key turnover and missed layup proved costly.
Palo Alto had a balanced scoring effort with Lindsay Black scoring 14 points, 12 on four 3-pointers, while Emilee Osagiede had 13, 10 in the second half, and Sydney Davis finished with 12.
"Lindsay worked very hard on her shot in the offseason," Peters said. "She gives us so much energy every time she plays. I think she will keep getting better as this season and next continue on."
As important as their scoring, their defense perhaps proved more valuable.
The Vikings pretty much shut down Gunn's top two scorers -- Cat Perez and Claire Klausner -- while holding them to a combined 12 points. Perez, hounded by Josie Butler and Palmer, among others, scored all of her eight points in the first half. Klausner got only two points in each half as Davis limited her access to the basket.
Gunn freshman Zoe Zwerling helped carry the Titans' offense with 15 points, nine coming on three-pointers, but junior Julia Maggioncalda was limited to just two points by Paly's defense.
"We were also concerned about Zwerling and Maggioncalda, did a good job on one and not so good on the other," Peters added.
The solid effort propels Palo Alto into the driver's seat in a De Anza Division that isn't as strong as in recent years. Gunn and Paly have proved thus far to be the class of the league and will meet again on Feb. 11, in all likelihood to decide the division title.
In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Pinewood held on to first place with a 72-35 blasting of Mercy-San Francisco in Los Altos Hills. The Panthers improved to 4-0 (13-3). Hailie Eackles scored 28 points and grabbed seven rounds while Kelsey Morehead dished out 10 assists for the Panthers. Eackles made six 3-pointers while Miranda Seto added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers.
In Atherton, Castilleja senior Natasha von Kaeppler tied the school single-game scoring record with 33 points but it wasn't enough as the Gators dropped a 52-37 decision to host Sacred Heart Prep (1-3, 9-4). Helen Gannon tallied 14 points to lead SHP while Melissa Holland added 11 as Sacred Heart outscored Castilleja (0-4, 9-7)on turnovers, 21-4.
The loss snaps Castilleja's seven-game winning streak over Sacred Heart Prep. In addition, Castilleja established a school-record low for having two players in the scoring column -- von Kaeppler and Lauren Rantz (four points). von Kaeppler finished with a team-high 13 rebounds in addition to two assists and three blocks. Rantz added six boards, two blocks and the lone Castilleja steal of the game while freshman Alina Brown led Castilleja in assists for the second straight night with three.
In East Palo Alto, host Eastside Prep took over sole possession of second place and remained just a game back of Pinewood following a 58-33 victory over Menlo School. Ahjalee Harvey led the Panthers (3-1, 12-6) with 20 points while fellow senior Takara Burse added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Jasmin Williams led Menlo (2-2, 12-6) with nine points while Drew Edelman added 11 rebounds.
In the PAL Bay Division, Sela Tupou came off the bench to score seven points in the fourth quarter and Alex Flowers made both ends of a one-and-one situation to lift Menlo-Atherton to a 49-47 victory over host Aragon on Friday. Tennyson Jellins and Anna Crookston-Herschlag combined for 23 points as the Bears improved to 2-2 in league (6-12 overall).
One match after playing first-place Los Gatos to a tie earlier in the week, Palo Alto took a step backwards in the SCVAL De Anza Division race with a 2-1 loss to host Los Altos on Friday.
After the Eagles (2-2-2, 2-3-5) scored in the 38th minute, the Vikings (2-2-1, 5-6-1) deadlocked the score in the 74th minute when sophomore Jordan Smith pressured a Los Altos defender to play the ball to her teammate, who tried to clear it. However, Paly senior Gracie Cain was racing in and wound up with the ball near the top of the box, finishing it for a 1-1 deadlock with time running out.
Three minutes later, however, Paly gave up the deciding goal when keeper Alex Kershner blocked a shot by Izz Lefebvre, only to have Lefebvre get the rebound and find the cage with the winning goal.