The Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep boys' basketball teams grabbed control of their respective league races, but each team took a different route on Friday night. The Vikings opened a two-game lead in the SCVAL De Anza Division by rallying to beat Cupertino, 45-42, while the Gators took a two-game advantage in the West Bay Athletic League with a 77-57 thumping of Pinewood.
In Palo Alto, the host Vikings rallied from as many as 15 points down to prevent a second loss to Cupertino this season. Paly improved to 8-1 in the division (15-6 overall) while Cupertino, which had a bye earlier in the week, dropped to 5-3 (13-7) with just four games remaining.
Playing zone defense in the first half, Palo Alto trailed by 27-13 at intermission after Cupertino hit seven three-pointers. The Vikings switched to a fullcourt man-to-man defense in the third quarter to change the tempo. The Pioneers managed just three 3-pointers in the second half as Charlie Jones did a fine defensive job on Cupertino's leading scorer.
Paly sophomore E.J. Floreal, who finished with 19 points, got a steal with four minutes remaining and finished it with a thunderous dunk to cut Cupertino's lead to four. Alec Wong hit a huge three-pointer to make it a one-point game with three minutes left. Floreal then had a tip-in to tie the game with two minutes left and Max Schmarzo hit two free throws with 22 seconds left to put the Vikings up by four.
Wong finished with 10 points while Davante adams made some great passes and ended the game with six assists and 11 rebounds as Paly avenged its only league loss.
"The first time we played them we played mostly man with a few possessions of 1-3-1," explained Paly coach Adam Sax. "This time we played a matchup zone and they hit seven threes in the first half, so went fullcourt man in the second half. We didn't shoot ball well from the perimeter, but we crashed the boards for 12 offensive rebounds and were much more productive in transition."
In Los Altos Hills, the McConnell brothers proved to be more than Pinewood could handle on Friday as Sacred Heart Prep grabbed a two-game lead in the WBAL. The Gators (10-0, 18-2), who won for the 14th straight time while sweeping their season series with the Panthers, got 57 points from the McConnells. Will led the way with 27 points and 14 rebounds while his senior twin, Reed, added 16 points and five assists while junior Cole contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. In the team's first meeting, it was Cole McConnell who scored 27 on Pinewood.
Despite the fact Pinewood pressed more than in the first game and had more success against SHP's press, the Gators wrapped things up over the second and third quarters by outscoring the Panthers, 45-23. Kyle Riches and Solomone Wolfgramm led Pinewood with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Dante Fraioli added 15, all on three-pointers. The Panthers now need some help with only four WBAL regular-season games remaining.
In Atherton, Menlo School strengthened its hold on third place in the WBAL with a solid defensive effort in a 44-31 victory over visiting Eastside Prep on Friday night. The Knights (6-4, 10-101) moved to within two games of second-place Pinewood as Richard Harris tossed in 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds with two blocked shots. Mac Osborne made four 3-pointers for 12 points and added five assists. Menlo can move closer to second place when it visits Pinewood on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
In Menlo Park, host Mid-Peninsula wrapped up the Private Schools Athletic League title with two games remaining following a 66-26 romp over Summit Prep of Redwood City on Friday. Lydell Cardwell led the Dragons (10-0, 16-2) with 22 points while Reggie Williams added 18 and Nick Seyer contributed 12. Mid-Pen grabbed a 39-14 halftime lead and cruised to yet another easy victory.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn remained mathematically alive in the league race with a 50-47 victory over visiting Los Altos on Friday night. The Titans (6-3, 14-7) still trail first-place Palo Alto by two games with only four to play. Gunn will face host Cupertino on Tuesday before hosting Paly on Friday in games that should determine the Titans' fate in league play.
On Friday, Gunn held on as Los Altos (2-7, 6-15) missed a three-point attempt after inbounding with under seven seconds to play, got the rebound and then missed the final shot. The Titans had trailed by as many as 17 points (31-14) in the third quarter before rallying with a 22-7 effort in the period.
Senior Taylor Perricone scored 19 of his season-high 21 points in the second half, including a three-pointer to put his team on top for good at 41-38. Seniors Matt Redfield and Anthony Cannon combined for another 25 points.
In the PAL Bay Division, visiting Burlingame won the battle between the first- and second-place teams with a 49-36 triumph over Menlo-Atherton. The Bears (5-3, 12-10) fell three games behind the Panthers (8-0, 19-3) after getting off to a slow start with just two points in the first quarter. Ian Proulx led M-A with 14 points while Myles Brewer added 10.
Sacred Heart Prep opened up a two-game lead over second-place Priory with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Panthers in West Bay Athletic League action on Friday. The Gators (9-0-1, 14-0-1) got the winning goal from Joseph Bolous off an assist from fellow sophomore Tommy Meaney and now hold a seven-point lead over the Panthers (7-2, 8-4-4) with four matches remaining.
"It was not our best performance in terms of the style of soccer we are capable of playing and want to play," said SHP coach Armando del Rio. "There were moments of the sequences of possession that we wanted, and want to play. We were happy that after a lackluster/uninspiring first half, that the team responded by working hard, winning 50/50 challenges, and winning all aerial balls. We moved the ball better as well.
"I thought we showed our character, and found a way in a game that we did not play our best . . . but, the work rate was there in the second half. But, as we have said all season long, we want to play to our level. Now that we have seen the fight in a gritty game from our side, we want to combine that with a good brand of up-tempo possession soccer. We have the ability to do both, and we want to see it consistently."
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton remained in second place with a solid 5-1 triumph over visiting Aragon on Friday. The Bears (8-1-1, 10-2-2) grabbed a 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Edgardo Molina (assists to Francisco Sanchez and Philip Witham) and an unassisted goal by Witham. Sanchez made it 3-0 in the second half and Gerry Cruz tallied the fourth goal. Witham and Molina combined for the fifth goal, with Witham finishing. The Bears will visit first-place Burlingame on Wednesday (4 p.m.) in a showdown for first place.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Victor Lazarov scored a goal in the final minute to pull host Gunn into a 1-1 deadlock with Palo Alto on Friday night. Palo Alto (3-0-6, 7-2-7), which suffered its sixth tie in the past seven matches, had taken the lead when John Richardson converted a penalty kick after Zac Hummel was fouled. Gunn (1-6-3, 2-10-5) tied Paly in both of its matches this season.