Babian delivers dramatic finish to Titans victory over Paly


Gunn High's 10-9 sudden-death overtime victory over Palo Alto on Saturday had it all. The game, played at neutral site Los Altos High, was for the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League tournament title and the league's top seed into the Central Coast Section championships.

It pitted friends vs. friends, brother vs. brother, and finished with one of the most dramatic ways in sports.

Junior Aaron Babian scored twice to help the Titans stay tied with Paly through two overtime periods. Then he scored again, in sudden death overtime, to lift Gunn to the overall SCVAL championship.

The Aaron Johnson-coached Vikings (19-9) finished second to the Matt Johnson-coached Titans (20-7) in the regular season and were looking to “get them back on their heels early.”

Palo Alto led, 3-2, after the first quarter and was within 5-4 of Gunn at halftime. The Vikings blanked the Titans in the third quarter and scored to tie the game. It stayed tight the rest of the way.

Both teams move on to the CCS playoffs, where they will be joined by Brandon Johnson-coached Menlo-Atherton (14-14), which finished second to Menlo School (25-2), 10-4, in the finals of the Peninsula Athletic League tournament at M-A.

Sacred Heart Prep (20-6) also earned an outright championship, beating host Bellarmine, 8-5, in the title game of the West Catholic Athletic League tournament.

In girls water polo action, Minhee Chung scored three times and Castilleja (17-8) beat Woodside, 8-3, in the PAL title game.

In the SCVAL, Los Gatos beat Gunn, 9-5, in the title game as five different Titans scored.

Maddy Johnston scored three times but St. Francis upset Sacred Heart Prep (17-9), 7-5, in the WCAL title match. The nine-time defending CCS champion Gators have been playing well lately, though could enter the CCS tournament as slight underdogs.

The CCS brackets are scheduled to be announced Sunday.

Jack Mallery led the Titans with four goals and Quinn Hamilton added two. JP Napaa also netted a goal for Gunn.

Menlo won the PAL League title outright for the second straight year, and for the 22nd time in 24 years.

Junior Niko Bhatia netted four goals to lead the Knights, while Ben Wagner led the Knights with three assists. Sophomore Sam Untrecht earned a game-high four ejections.

Tiago Bonchristiano recorded 19 saves and a pair of assists while Bhatia led all players in steals with four. Jayden Sunwar had three blocked shots.

"This was a true team effort," Menlo coach Jack Bowen said. "This team has been based on mutual trust all season long and, prior to this game starting, I reminded the players that the only thing they could really count on going into this game was each other. They did that tonight, possibly better than we have all season. This is a great time to be peaking."

Larsen Weigle, Jackson Enright, and Alex Tsotadze each scored twice for SH Prep in its win over the Bells. Andrew Churukian and Michael Sonsini also scored.

Castilleja held the Wildcats scoreless in the first half, behind junior goalie Georgia Lewis. The Gators held a 5-0 advantage at the break.

Claire Pisani added two goals for Castilleja, while Anika Adzich, Jenna Kotcher, Madison Lewis also scored.

Sylvia Illouz, Janis Iourovitski, Kara Jacobsen, Cooper McKenna, Mikaela Wayne all scored for the third-seeded Titans, who defeated Mountain View, 5-4, in the semifinal.

Addi Duvall and Layla Waters also scored for SH Prep, which trailed most of the contest against the Lancers. The teams have split two meetings this season.

--Front page photo "Gunn wins . . . " by Butch Garcia

— Rick Eymer/Palo Alto Online Sports

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