Should the Palo Alto boys' basketball team go on to win the SCVAL De Anza Division title this season, it will be well-earned. Friday's wild 79-74 victory over visiting Homestead was a good example.
The first-place Vikings (6-1, 12-6) grabbed a 35-22 halftime lead and then had to hold on for dear life as the Mustangs put up 52 second-half points to make it close.
"We played a great first half defensively, and we were able to get out in transition," said Paly coach Adam Sax. "The guys really passed the ball well.
"In the second half, Israel Hakim didn't play due to illness and we lost a lot of quickness, and our rotation changed. (Homestead's Momir) Gataric (28 points) made a lot of great plays to the basket and displayed outstanding quickness to the basket. He is a great player!"
EJ Floreal had his second big game for the Vikings this week (he has 27 against Los Gatos), tossing in 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, while Max Schmarzo converted 10 free throws and finished with 16 points. Tori Prati also did a nice job of rebounding, grabbing seven.
"Max hit some clutch free throws in the last two minutes," Sax said. "(But) we got into a lot of foul trouble and that led to 23 free throws (for the Mustangs)."
Seniors Charlie Jones and Davante Adams combined for another 23 points as the Vikings handed the Mustangs their third loss of the league season and knocked them out of the race with five games to play. Homestead also played Paly tough in their first meeting while dropping a seven-point decision.
With the second half of the season just under way, Palo Alto is locked in a three-way battle with Gunn (5-2) and Cupertino (5-2). The Vikings will host Cupertino on Feb. 4 before visiting Gunn on Feb. 11 in games that should decide the league title.
In another De Anza Division game Friday, host Gunn (5-2, 13-6) held off Lynbrook, 42-38. The Titans held the Vikings scoreless for 15 minutes and grabbed a 24-3 halftime lead, but Lynbrook battled back and actually got to within two.
Gunn managed only six points in the third period, which allowed Lynbrook to get back into the game. The Vikings got to within 40-38 before senior Taylor Perricone made two free throws to finally wrap it up for Gunn. Matt Redfield led the Titans with 14 points while fellow senior Jack Hannan added 13. Perricone and Anthony Cannon combined for 12.
In the West Bay Athletic League, senior Pat McNamara came up with his second straight solid scoring effort while filling in for the injured Reed McConnell as the Sacred Heart Prep boys' basketball team held on to first place with a comfortable 55-22 romp over host Crystal Springs on Friday night.
McNamara tossed in 15 points while fellow seniors Colin Terndrup and Will McConnell combined for 23 as the Gators (8-0, 16-2) pulled away from a 21-20 halftime lead by outscoring the Gryphons (4-4, 10-7) by a 34-2 count in the second half.
In Portola Valley, Pinewood maintained its hold on second place in the WBAL by holding host Priory to 10-pf-57 shooting en route to a 63-33 victory on Friday night. Pinewood (7-1, 15-3) held Priory scoring leaders Brandon Willhite and Gabor Somogyi to 10 and four points, respectively. Kevin Sweat led Pinewood with 15 points while Dante Fraioli added 11.
In Sunnyvale, Menlo School lost a chance to move up in the WBAL standings following a 71-66 loss to host King's Academy on Friday night. The Knights (4-4, 8-9) battled to a 36-36 halftime deadlock before being outscored in the third quarter, 23-12. Menlo, which was outscored at the free-throw line by 10 points, was led by Richard Harris with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Kent Lacob with 15 points. The Knights, who gave up 26 points to Amir Carlisle, play on Saturday night in a nonleague game at Palo Alto.
In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton remained in second place following its second nail-biter this week, a 43-41 victory over visiting El Camino on Friday night. The Bears (4-2, 11-9) held off Woodside on Wednesday, 56-55. Myles Brewer tossed in 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds to pace M-A while Ian Proulx added 11 points. Michael Culhane continued his strong rebounding, plucking 13 boards. He had 16 in the win over Woodside.
Joseph Bolous and Robert Ojeda each scored twice and added an assist while Kyle Scherba also tallied twice as the Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team rolled to an easy 9-0 victory over host Pinewood in West Bay Athletic League action on Friday.
Isaac Polkinhorne provided two assists and scored once while his brother Max, the team's starting goalie, also played in the field and scored the final goal as the Gators improved to 7-0-1 in league (12-0-1 overall). SHP has outscored the opposition this season, 63-7. Will Mishra also scored for SHP.
In SCVAL De Anza Division action, host Palo Alto (2-0-5, 6-2-6) suffered its fifth straight tie in a 0-0 deadlock with Saratoga on Friday.
Gunn, meanwhile, dropped a 5-1 decision to visiting Los Altos as the Titans fell to 1-4-2 in league (2-8-4 overall).