Basketball tournaments signal the official beginning of the season, and two local boys' squads certainly have gotten their respective campaigns off to a good start after winning championships during the weekend.
Palo Alto heads into this week with a 3-0 record after winning the Westmont Invitational on Friday with a 53-51 triumph over Valley Christian. Israel Hakim led the Vikings with 18 points while E.J. Floreal added 16. Both were named to the all-tournament team along with teammate Alec Wong.
Palo Alto next will compete in the Granada Tournament, which begins Thursday.
While Palo Alto was winning its title, the Pinewood boys were moving closer to claiming the crown in the 54th annual Redwood Classic in Booneville by beating NorCal Division V power Branson, 69-63 on Friday. One night later, the Panthers (4-0) completed their four-game sweep with a 75-47 blasting of Stuart Hall in the championship game of the 16-team event.
"Our team unity and depth were really the key factors this weekend," said Pinewood coach Jason Peery. "These boys are tight, tough and they play for each other and truly cheer for one another."
Senior Dante Fraioli averaged 16 points and four steals per game and was named the Most Valuable Player in the tourney. He had 23 points and five steals in the big semifinal win over Branson.
Senior Solomone Wolfgramm also was named to the all-tournament team after grabbing 17 rebounds in the championship game.
Five Pinewood players averaged double figures in scoring as the Panthers averaged 81 points a game, fifth-highest in tourney history. Pinewood opened with a 93-57 romp over Hoopa and topped Marin Academy in the quarterfinals, 87-51.
"Our depth is just amazing," Peery said. "We played 10 guys and there was no drop off. We kept the pressure up the whole game."
Peery said his team is faster this season than last, when the Panthers went 23-6 and reached the NorCal Division V semifinals before losing. Owen Lewis, a junior, is one of four new players up from the JV squad and already has made an impact with his speed.
Pinewood will open its home season on Wednesday against St. Ignatius at 4:30 p.m., before heading north once again to participate in the Cloverdale Tournament that starts Thursday.
While the Pinewood boys hit the road, the Pinewood girls (1-0) will remain home to host the annual Pinewood Classic. The defending CIF Division V state champs will open on Wednesday night against Scotts Valley at 7:30 p.m., preceded by Palo Alto and San Mateo at 6 p.m.
The tourney resumes Thursday with Gunn (2-1) taking on Evergreen Valley at 6:30 p.m. The Titans opened their season last weekend with a third-place finish at the Burlingame Tournament.
The Pinewood Classic will host semifinal games Friday at 6:30 and 8 p.m., with the title game on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Menlo-Atherton capped its first week of action by finishing third in the annual Lemoore Tournament on Saturday in Fresno.
The Bears went 3-1, with victories over Taft (7-0), Reedley (6-1) and Sanger (2-1) before suffering a 1-0 loss to eventual champion Central High of Fresno.
"It was a bummer not to have made the final," said M-A coach Paul Snow, "but we still did well."
Senior Jennifer Kirst scored six goals in the tournament for M-A, finishing the five-game week with seven goals -- including one in a season-opening loss to Menlo School on Nov. 29.