Boys varsity basketball wins CCS Finals

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Arohi Bhattacharya and Emily Yun

The Palo Alto High School boys’ varsity basketball team (23-5) closed out its season as the champions of Central Coast Section Division I with a 47-36 win over Sequoia High School (18-11) on Saturday night.

The Vikings say they knew from earlier encounters this season that Sequoia would be a tough competitor.

“We made sure to study a lot of film this morning and last night, so we knew exactly what they were going to do.” senior guard Ryan Purpur said.

Junior center Martin Segura said the Vikings’ cohesion, which has improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, was one of the biggest reasons for the win.

“This is a great environment to be around,” Segura said. “Us, just playing as a family unit is great. We’ve been on the same team for almost four years now, and we’re always hanging out with each other and eating lunch together, so that chemistry we’ve built up over years really helped us today.”

The Vikings’ pace during the first quarter of the game was slow. Defense from junior guard Andrew Li and senior guard Will DeAndre was hard to maintain, giving the Ravens a nine-point advantage near the end of the quarter, 9-18.

Senior guard Ryan Purpur jumps high to make a dunk during the last quarter at the Division I Central Coast Section Finals on Saturday night. After a shaky first quarter, the Vikings made a major come back during the second quarter and kept up the lead for the rest of the game. “[The Ravens] scored a lot of points in the first quarter,” Purpur said. “But we were able to get the lead at half-time.” Photo: Emily Yun
Despite the weak start, the team maintained its confidence, according to Purpur.

“We knew the game was far from over, so we kept fighting back,” Purpur said.

Senior guard and forward Jamir Shepard and senior guard Matt Marzano made multiple baskets and layups, slowly closing the point gap. Li and senior forward Elijah Steiner recovered the Ravens’ plays by intercepting passes to put the Vikings up at the end of the half, 19-18.

Shepard said their enormous gain was a result of the team’s communication and pep talks during their timeouts.

“In the second quarter, we gained some momentum,” Shepard said. “The coaches gave us a talk during [the time out] to tell us to keep pushing and pushing at them, so that’s what we did.”

The stands were fired up in the third quarter as the Vikings hit continuous three-pointers and baskets from Marzano, Segura and junior guard Aidan Rausch, including two dunks from Rausch and Shepard. Purpur’s defensive strategies of recovering rebounds and keeping the ball movement steady limited the Raven’s offensive chances, leading to a strong 33-26 lead for the Vikings.

The aggressiveness ramped up for both teams in the final quarter. The Vikings kept their offense consistent while the Ravens held their side of the court. DeAndre and Shepard secured all six of their free throws. After long minutes awaiting, the crowd jumped from the stands onto the court to celebrate the team’s third CCS win in history, 47-36. It was an ecstatic moment for every Viking there, especially for the seniors.

“Our season isn’t over yet,” Purpur said. “We’re still going to Norcals. There are a lot of returning juniors that are going to be playing next year, and they’re really talented, so hopefully we get this far next year.”