The Palo Alto boys basketball team has set a high standard for execution in its first 10 games of the season. The Vikings have gone 8-2, but the two losses have come in a similar vein - a pair of three-point losses to West Catholic Athletic League teams.
The most recent was a 62-59 loss Friday to host St. Francis in the championship game of the Joe Schram Holiday Classic.
In both losses Paly encountered a team that took pressure defense to another level -- a place where Palo Alto was unable to run its offense in the manner to which it has become accustomed.
“This was a similar deal to the Bellarmine game,’’ Palo Alto coach Peter Diepenbrock said, referencing his team’s loss by the same score, 62-59, to the Bells in the championship game of their DJ Frandsen Memorial Tournament. “Their athleticism made it difficult for us to handle the ball and we just gave up too many offensive rebounds.’’
St. Francis (9-1) jumped to a 9-2 lead. Palo Alto battled back and went ahead 15-14 at the start of the second quarter. From there on a back-and-forth battle was waged.
The Lancers led, 25-22, at halftime and still had a three-point lead at 39-36 when the Vikings ended the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers by Miles Tention and Spencer Rojahn to take their own three-point lead at 42-39.
A basket by Max Dorward to start the fourth quarter made it 44-39, but from there on St. Francis unleashed an even higher level of aggression. Palo Alto turned the ball over on each of its next three possessions and the Lancers scored eight unanswered points for a 47-44 advantage.
“Right after we got the lead they just came and took it from us,’’ Diepenbrock said. “We’ve got to be better with the ball.’’
A 3-pointer by Will Schlemmer tied it back up, but St. Francis scored the next five points. Palo Alto was forced into catchup mode that never quite reached the intended target.
Both teams went 6 of 6 at the foul line down the stretch.
Dorward led Palo Alto with 20 points. Tention scored 17, all in the second half. Schlemmer and Rojahn had seven rebounds apiece.