A furious finish wasn't enough to overcome a poor start for the Palo Alto boys lacrosse team, which came out flat and fell, 7-5, to Los Gatos Saturday in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championship game at Gunn High.
"We talked about it at the beginning of the game, the first five minutes are going to determine the winner," Paly coach DJ Shelton said. "They definitely won the first five minutes. That last five was definitely ours, but it was a little bit too late.
Senior Matthew Seligson had a goal and two assists for the Vikings (14-5), who had beaten Los Gatos to win the playoff title last year. The teams split their two regular-season meetings in 2016.
"It's always emotional between these two schools," said Shelton, who graduated from Paly in 2008. "It's been like that since I've been at Paly, in any sport. We knew it was going to be a dogfight."
Despite being outplayed in the first half, the Vikings were only down 3-2 at halftime because of 13 saves from senior goalkeeper Quintin Valenti.
"(Quintin's) unbelievable," Shelton said. "We expect him to get first-team all-league for the third year in a row. He's a wall. He's an absolute stud and he's been carrying this team for a long time."
But Valenti, who finished with 14 stops, couldn't save the Vikings in the third quarter. Paly turned the ball over continuously in transition as Los Gatos scored all three goals of the third quarter to go up 6-2.
Ariya Momeny beat his defender and scored to cut the deficit to 6-3 with 7:37 remaining, but the Wildcats scored 1:26 later to get back up by 4.
Los Gatos was undisciplined in the end, and Cole Tierney and Patrick McIntosh scored on extra-man opportunities to make it 7-5 with 2:28 left. But Los Gatos goalie Charlie Douglas (10 saves) stopped shots by Momeny and Tierney in the final minute as Los Gatos held on for the win.
"We won our matchups at the end of the game, but you have to be able to come out in the first part to really determine a champion, and that's the difference," Shelton said. "They played a complete game."
The Paly boys played just after the Vikings girls lacrosse team started fast and successfully defended their title at Gunn.
"It's never easy to lose a championship," Shelton said. "But it gives you motivation for the next year, and that's what our program is. It's year-to-year, not game-to-game."