Palo Alto's defensive pressure does it again

Gunn girls beat Paly in soccer for first time in five years

Playing its stellar defense for the second time against Wilcox, the Palo Alto girls' basketball team remained unbeaten and two games in front in the SCVAL De Anza Division race with a 43-18 triumph on Friday night. The Vikings (9-0, 16-4) gave up just nine points the last time they met the Chargers.

Shamelia Clay played with great energy and harassed Wilcox all night long in addition to scoring eight points. Freshman post Danielle Palmer was very good on the boards and started some fast breaks with great outlet passes. Senior Sydney Davis led a balanced scoring attack with nine points for Paly, which has a bye next Wednesday before visiting second-place Gunn on Feb. 11.

Across town, host Gunn took care of business while remaining two games out of first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division following a 48-34 win over Monta Vista (1-8, 7-13). The Titans improved to 7-2 in league (15-4 overall) as junior Cat Perez scored 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Claire Klausner had 11 boards to go with her six points while freshman Zoe Zwerling added 13 points to the victory as Gunn dominated the offensive boards with 21.

In the West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division), Castilleja fell just shy of pulling off a major upset as it dropped a 40-34 contest to host Eastside Prep on Friday night. The Gators (1-7, 11-11) came ready to prove this game would be a far cry from the 30-point blowout three weeks ago to the Panthers (7-1, 16-6). Trailing 18-14 late in the second quarter, Castilleja reeled off eight straight points to take a 22-18 halftime lead behind 14 first-half points from Natasha von Kaeppler, who finished with 18.

The Panthers took control of the game in the third as they outscored Castilleja, 17-4, as the Gators only connected on only one of 11 shots from the field while being outrebounded 14-6 in the period. Eastside extended its lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 36-26, Castilleja put together another 8-0 run, highlighted by Olivia Nicholls' trey with 2:30 left to pull to within three and then a Laura Rose free throw with 1:30 remaining to pull to within two.

Castilleja, however, got no closer despite the fact the Panthers failed to make a field goal in the final quarter. Ahjalee Harvey led Eastside with 17 points while Takara Burse added 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Eastside controlled the boards throughout the contest as it outrebounded Castilleja, 38-26, marking the largest rebound differential for the Gators this season as their 26 boards were a season-low. Despite their 16-8 advantage on the offensive boards, the Panthers only grabbed an 11-9 edge on second-chance points. Eastside also outscored Castilleja 14-6 on fastbreak points and 30-14 on points in the paint.

Castilleja's von Kaeppler added 11 rebounds, six steals and three blocks to her 18 points. Riya Modi added two steals and a team-high four assists to become the fifth player in school history with 200 career dishes.

In Los Altos Hills, co-leader Pinewood kept pace with Eastside Prep with a 71-30 drubbing of visiting Sacred Heart Prep. Senior Hailie Eackles followed up her 27-point effort from earlier in the week with 28 points against the Gators (1-7, 10-8) as the Panthers improved to 7-1 (16-5) with only two games remaining in the regular season. Miranda Seto bounced back from a three-point effort in a loss to Eastside Prep and finished with 15. Melissa Holland led SHP with 12 points.

In Atherton, host Menlo School wrapped up third place in the WBAL with a 70-59 victory over Mercy-San Francisco on Friday night. The Knights improved to 5-3 in league (15-7 overall) in their final regular-season home game.

On Senior Night Menlo, played a highly efficient and experienced game by committing only six turnovers for the game to go along with 15 assists -- with senior Whitney Hooper getting five of them to go along with 12 points. Menlo was led in scoring by Lauren Lete with 18 points and Drew Edelman with 15 points.

In the PAL Bay Division, host Menlo-Atherton dropped a 59-56 overtime decision to Burlingame after the teams had been tied four times in the fourth quarter. Sela Tupou led the Bears (3-5, 7-16) with 17 points Anna Crookston Herschlag added 13 and Tennyson Jellins 10.

Girls' soccer

This hasn't been the most successful season for Gunn, which took a streak of seven winless matches (three ties, four losses) into Friday's second rivalry showdown with host Palo Alto.

The Titans, however, made their season a bit more cheery by beating the Vikings for the first time in five years, 1-0, to move ahead of Paly in the SCVAL De Anza Division standings by a single point.

Holly McKenna provided the winning goal off an assist by freshman Sarah Robinson in the 28th minute of the second half as the Titans improved to 2-5-3 in league (7-6-5 overall). Paly fell to 2-4-2 and 5-8-2 in a season that has seen just one win in the past six matches.

Gunn's victory avenged an early 2-0 loss to Paly.

"We weren't emotionally exhausted like we were Game 1," said Gunn coach Damian Cohen on the differences between the two matches. "The girls played with sheer heart and intensity knowing that there had been years of struggle. They were truly a whole team on this day."

Robinson missed the first match with Paly and, obviously made a difference in this one.

"We played a 4-4-2 and thus, defensively, we played phenomenal soccer (our best)," said Cohen, "which means I should have played a 4-4-2 more often!"

-- Palo Alto Online Sports

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