The Palo Alto High School boys’ basketball team suffered an overwhelming loss to Archbishop Riordan High School, 58-47, tonight at Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose in the Central Coast Section Open Division quarterfinals.
Following an undefeated league season and with a 21-game win streak on the line, the Vikings (23-2, 12-0) failed to put enough points on the board at any one time to pose a serious threat to the Crusaders (18-9, 7-7).
The game was defined by momentum shifts and point streaks. Despite impressive sequences of points, the Vikings never held the lead. The game was an inward Viking battle between brilliant moments of success and reckless errors.
Palo Alto, seeded fifth, entered the game passively as the fourth-seeded Crusaders quickly jumped to a 13-8 lead after the first quarter. Senior forward Aubrey Dawkins started the game off strong by putting the first four points on the scoreboard, yet the Crusaders took advantage of several sloppy passes and missed shot opportunities to obtain a comfortable lead going into the second quarter.
The Vikings started off the second quarter with determination, yet after only 20 seconds junior forward Keller Chryst hopped off the court on one leg after hurting his ankle in a scramble for a rebound. Chryst did not return for the remainder of the game.
Despite the loss of Chryst, Paly lit up the court in a back-and-forth second quarter, cutting the Crusaders’ lead down to only three points. An eight-point sequence comprised of a free throw by Petriceks, two drives by senior guard Mathias Schmutz, and a free throw and a successful drive by Dawkins helped achieve this 19-16 score with one and a half minutes remaining before halftime.
Yet, the Crusaders were unwilling to enter the second half without a comfortable lead and scored a series of last-second points to end the half with an eight point lead, the score 24-16.
Once again the Vikings refused to give up, with Dawkins coming out strong with a successful drive and three-pointer to open up the half. Subsequent scores by senior Kenny Jones and Schmutz cancelled out those of the Crusaders to maintain a five-point deficit. The Vikings ended up outscoring the Crusaders in the only quarter all game, 11-10, ending the quarter down 34-27.
Yet, once again the Crusaders drew the line and went on a 19-4 run to lead the Vikings, 49-29, with four minutes remaining in the game. This fourth quarter was reminiscent of the first, with the Crusaders comfortably leading the Vikings as the clock ran down. A sudden burst of energy from the Vikings came too late, as a series of key scores from Dawkins and Petriceks ran up the Viking score to 47 points, yet ultimately still no match to the Crusaders’ decisive 58.
Last year, this loss would have marked the end of the road for the Vikings. Yet, due to a change in CCS rules, the boys will have a shot at redemption in a CCS consolation bracket and an automatic entry into the Division 1 Northern California playoffs. This year, for the first time ever, an Open Division exists in which the top eight teams are hand-selected from different leagues. A berth in the Open Division guarantees a continuation into the NorCal tournament regardless of how a team performs in the eight-team CCS bracket.
The Vikings will take on Soquel High School (20-7), which lost to Archbishop Mitty (22-5) 59-57 tonight, at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at Independence High School in San Jose in the CCS consolation bracket.