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December 16, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, December 16, 2005

Tests are just starting Tests are just starting (December 16, 2005)

Palo Alto is off to 7-0 start, but tough tourney ahead

by Nathan Kurz

Even though the Palo Alto boys' basketball team is off to yet another blistering start, the going is about to get really tough this weekend.

The Vikings (7-0), who throttled Woodside 58-38 in a nonleague game Tuesday, will face their toughest challenge of the young season in the form of the Mission Prep Christian Classic in San Luis Obispo.

Palo Alto opens Saturday against a difficult Campolindo team, which played in the Northern California tournament last season. The intrigue, however, lies further down the road. If the pieces fall correctly, the Vikings eventually could meet Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, the defending Division II state champion that eliminated the locals in the Northern California finals last season.

"They've got a lot of their key guys back," Palo Alto head coach Peter Diepenbrock said, noting 6-foot-9 Ryan Anderson, bound for Cal in 2006, plus 6-7 Andrew Browning. "It should be a good measuring stick for us."

It should be recalled that last March, the Vikings were without the services of their star point guard, Jeremy Lin, who had fractured a bone in his foot in a pickup game several days before.

Now Lin will get his chance to show what might have been.

The 6-foot-1 senior guard is already showing several colleges what could be. Stanford assistant coaches Tony Fuller and L.J. Hepp attended Tuesday's game with Palo Alto basketball alum Chris Bobel, and, reportedly, Cal had a scout in attendance, as well.

According to teammates and coaches, Lin is considering walking on at Stanford but won't make a decision about his destination until late in the recruiting process (spring).

All speculation aside, Lin's skills and instincts are clearly reaching new heights. He had 11 points, five assists and three steals in 29 minutes against Woodside, creating open shots for teammates with his penetration and wreaking havoc defensively with his athleticism.

"His creativity has really improved," teammate Steven Brown said. "He's come such a long way. He creates a lot of offense, especially for me."

And Brown has usually been good about cashing in on those opportunities. He scored 60 points and nailed 11 three-pointers over the weekend, and although he led all scorers with 15 points against Woodside, he missed far more shots than he made.

"You kind of expect it to always go in after the games he had," Diepenbrock said. "But we need him to keep shooting. He needs to score for us to be successful."

Palo Alto started last year on a similar tear, winning its first 13 games before falling to Santa Cruz in the finals of the St. Francis Tournament. But the Vikings are traveling the same road in a different style, relying heavily on solid man-to-man defense and throwing in some timely offense, either in the form of second chance or transition points.

"We always have five athletes on the floor and offensively, we've got a height advantage at all positions," Diepenbrock said. "We've got to be able to isolate our guys when necessary."

Tuesday, things started ominously for Palo Alto, which fell behind 9-2 in the first four minutes against the energized Wildcats. But the Vikings closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Kevin Trimble with seconds remaining, and never trailed again.

For all intents and purposes, Palo Alto turned a close game (28-21 at halftime) into a blowout by holding Woodside to seven points in the third quarter, forcing turnovers on four straight possessions at one point. For the game, the Palo Alto defense created 20 turnovers.

The outcome was a far cry from last year's nail-biter between the two schools. Then-senior Brian Baskauskas tied the game on a three-pointer as time expired, and Palo Alto went on to win in overtime.

But with the Wildcats breaking in several reserves after losing seven key players from its Division I runnerup team, the rout was not unforeseeable.

While Paly hits the road this weekend, Gunn (5-4) will stay closer to home. The Titans will open play in the annual Fremont-Sunnyvale Holiday Tournament on Saturday against Independence at 11:30 a.m.

Gunn tuned up for that with a 60-42 nonleague triumph over visiting Aragon on Wednesday night.

"Our defense really stepped us," Gunn coach Chris Redfield said. "I talked to the guys about denying their opponent and they came through."

Gunn guards Nicky La Fleur, Chris Yu and Bernard Anthony pressured the Dons out front, while 6-8 Neil Brennan, 6-5 Peter Jordan, 6-5 David Riley, and 6-4 Matt Johnson did the defensive work underneath.

Jordan scored 10 of his game-high 29 points in the opening quarter, sparking the Titans to a 19-6 lead. Riley nailed a three-pointer to put Gunn ahead at 53-37 with just over three minutes to play. He finished with 15 points.

In other boys' games:

Mid-Peninsula got 28 points from Jamar Williams in a 57-42 nonleague win over host Wilcox, while Pinewood (4-1) suffered its first loss of the young season in a 48-22 decision to visiting Evergreen Valley.

For Mid-Peninsula, Williams hit some three-pointers early to pull Wilcox out of its zone defense. When the Chargers came out to guard him, Williams was able to drive.

"We made a lot of extra passes and that opened it up for a lot of open shots," said Mid-Pen coach Curtis Haggins.

Girls basketball

Defending Division V state champion Pinewood opened play in the Pinewood Classic with a 61-30 win over Piedmont Hills on Wednesday. The Panthers (3-1) will face Presentation today (6:30 p.m.) in the semifinals. The championship game is Saturday at 4 p.m.

Senior Liz Altmaier led the Panthers with 15 points while freshman Lindsay Nickel added 13 and 6-1 sophomore Aly Geppert tossed in 12.

Paly (5-3) rebounded from a first-round loss in the Oak Grove Holiday Classic to bounce Evergreen Valley, 57-48, in the second round of consolation play Wednesday. Bre Clay (13 points) and Melody Gaal (12) paced the Vikings.

In the first round of the Burlingame Tournament, Menlo (6-2) pulled away from a 35-35 game with Gunn to post a 50-45 victory. Aly Shepard made 10 of 12 free throws and finished with 18 points to lead the Knights. Jackie Shepard and Laura Olson both contributed 12 points.

Boys soccer

Palo Alto (0-0-1, 1-4-2) opened up its SCVAL De Anza Division season with a scoreless match against visiting Mountain View on Tuesday.

"Mountain View is a very fast team that pressured the Paly defense much of the game," said Paly coach Don Briggs. "We had several counter-attacking attempts, including several nice crosses, but had few direct shots on the goal."

Briggs cited his defense for a standout effort, led by seniors Shane Clark and Billie Chan, junior Patrick Alonis, sophomore Zal Dordi and senior keeper Tommy Brown.

"They teamed together to slow down the Mountain View attack," Briggs said.

Paly will be on the road against Santa Clara on Thursday, while Gunn (0-0, 4-0) visits Homestead to open its league season. Both matches are at 3:30 p.m.

Gunn will continue play in the Homestead Christmas Cup on Saturday, facing Harbor at De Anza College at 10:15 a.m. Menlo-Atherton (4-4) will take on Gilroy at 1:45 p.m. The Gunn-Harbor winner will face the Santa Cruz-Mitty winner on Monday, while the winner of M-A and Gilroy will take on the Watsonville-Pioneer winner.

Girls soccer

Menlo School pulled off the surprise victory of the season with a 2-0 shocker over defending champion Carlmont in PAL Bay Division action Tuesday in Atherton.

"This is a great win for us," said Menlo coach Donoson Fitzgerald. "This is huge. We have never beaten Carlmont in a league game before."

Sophomore Lauren Brown scored both goals, the first coming before halftime when she headed in a corner kick by senior Erica Swanson. In the second half, Brown followed in a cross from freshman Katie Howard. Fitzgerald singled out the defensive efforts of sophomore goalies Liz Daly and Cayley Bowles, plus freshman Casey Finch.

The victory, however, might be costly for Menlo. Brown suffered an injury late in the game.

"It potentially could be a season-ending injury," Fitzgerald said.

In another PAL match, Menlo-Atherton (1-2, 5-5-1) dropped a 2-1 decision at Aragon. Kim O'Donnell provided the lone Bears' goal on a penalty kick.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto (0-1, 1-3-3) opened its league season with a 1-0 loss to host Mountain View.

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