First and foremost, the Vikings, Gators and Panthers will be playing for first place on Friday night in their respective leagues. Paly and SHP can take sole possession of the top spot with victories while Pinewood can earn a share of it.
All three are facing teams that handed them their only league losses this season. All three losses were close — making each one very winnable. Eastside Prep beat Pinewood, 46-38; Palo Alto lost to Los Gatos in overtime, 62-61, and Sacred Heart Prep fell at home to Harker, 55-50.
To say it's time for revenge may be an understatement.
"I think they all see what the game presents," said SHP coach Tony Martinelli, who was talking about his players.
Martinelli's statement also applies to all three teams, which know how much weight a victory will carry on Friday night.
First up will be the Pinewood girls, who will play host to Eastside Prep at 6:30 p.m. in a West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) game that could go a long way in determining the regular-season champion.
At 7:30 p.m., the Sacred Heart Prep boys will take the floor at Blackford High in San Jose to face host Harker in a showdown between the WBAL's top two teams.
Finally, sometime after 7:45 p.m., Palo Alto will lay out the welcome mat for Los Gatos in a SCVAL De Anza Division titanic between the co-leaders.
"It's a league championship that's on the line," Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said of his Friday game with Eastside Prep, but again could be speaking about all three.
Second-place Pinewood (3-1, 12-5) and first-place Eastside Prep (5-0, 16-2) both are coming off impressive victories on Tuesday. The LAH Panthers romped past Mercy-San Francisco, 72-45; while the EPA Panthers routed visiting Sacred Heart Prep, 59-28.
For Eastside Prep, senior Felicia Anderson led the way with 20 points while junior Ahjalee Harvey added 17 points and five assists with freshman Hashima Carothers contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds. Eastside Prep streaked to a 27-11 halftime lead.
In Los Altos Hills, Pinewood kept pace as junior Hailie Eackles poured in 23 points and added five rebounds and four assists while Kelsey Morehead made five of six 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. The Panthers made 15 of 30 treys, including nine straight in the second quarter, while shooting 54 percent from the field for the game.
Pinewood shot poorly in its first meeting with Eastside Prep and trailed by as many as 26 points before putting on a furious rally to make it close. Pinewood will be strengthened by the return of 5-foot-11 junior Jenna McLoughlin, who just finished rehabbing an ACL injury. She played in her first game of the season on Tuesday, scoring five points and grabbing four rebounds.
Pinewood needs to keep Anderson and Harvey under wraps in addition to having a good shooting night in order to forge a tie for the division lead.
"I think that we're a different team than the last time we played them," said Scheppler, noting, among other things, the addition of McLoughlin. "She means a lot to us."
Scheppler said the first meeting angered him when he saw the game tape.
"We weren't relentless; we were passive," he said. "We showed a lack of toughness. We got away from being ourselves."
When Scheppler showed the game tape of the Eastside Prep game to his players, he said "they were embarrassed. Now, we're playing with a new purpose. I think we've kind of redirected who we want to be as a team."
It will be a busy night at Pinewood on Friday. Former Pinewood standout Sami Field-Polisso will be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame at halftime and the Pinewood boys will host Eastside Prep at 8 p.m.
The Sacred Heart Prep boys (6-1, 12-5), meanwhile, know what they need to do grab sole possession of first place against Harker (6-1, 17-3).
"The (first) game was played at their speed," Martinelli said. "We pressed more at the end to catch up, but we ran out of gas. Hopefully we learned a lesson after the Harker game."
Martinelli wants to set the tempo this time, perhaps press more early and utilize his deep bench. Harker is limited with its personnel and SHP can take advantage by playing an up-tempo game.
"It's important to get a lot of guys involved in the game," Martinelli said. "It's hard to get a lot of guys in the game if you're not running up and down the court. In evaluating the first Harker game, I probably didn't use the guys properly."
Martinelli would like to see his team play like it did in the first half of Tuesday's 90-67 victory at Eastside Prep.
"We pressed a lot in the first half and forced turnovers," Martinelli said. "A lot of guys got involved in the game."
Junior Reed McConnell led the Gators with 22 points, one of five SHP players to reach double figures. McConnell's twin brother, Will, added 16 points. Sacred Heart made a season-high 35 field goals and grabbed a 51-26 halftime lead before coasting in the second half. Leslie Gray led the Panthers (1-6, 3-13) with 25 points. He has scored 79 points in the past three games.
Palo Alto coach Bob Roehl also has a good idea what went wrong in his team's first meeting with Los Gatos.
"We had the game won twice and let it slip away," he said. "At the end of regulation, we didn't block out and they got the rebound and scored. In overtime, we didn't rebound again, they scored and won."
Roehl said the positive thing that came out of the game was being able to fix the problems.
"The things we have had trouble with are our own mistakes," Roehl said. "We can fix those things. It's not something the other teams are doing to us."
Like Pinewood and Sacred Heart, Palo Alto has not lost since the Los Gatos game.
"I honestly feel that with each game we've gotten better," Roehl said. "We have not gone backward . . . the kids are really working hard at being good teammates and are supporting each other."
Getting solid and unselfish contributions from throughout the lineup, Palo Alto (5-1, 12-6) set the stage for Friday's showdown with a 59-27 humbling of host Fremont on Wednesday night. Los Gatos (5-1, 16-2) routed Wilcox, 74-45, to keep pace.
"Team defense and great teamwork was the difference," Roehl said. "We created easy scoring opportunities with our unselfish play."
Palo Alto limited the Firebirds (3-3, 10-8) to just five points in the opening quarter and two points in the fourth quarter. At halftime, the Vikings held a 38-14 lead and were in control of the game. Kevin Brown tossed in 14 points to lead Paly while Max Schmarzo contributed 12. Davante Adams added nine with Brendan Rider and Charlie Jones splitting 16.
Roehl is hoping for that kind of balanced effort again on Friday night.