Girls’ varsity basketball loses against Menlo Atherton at CCS Finals

Emily Yun and Arohi Bhattacharya

In a suspenseful match in the Central Coast Section Division I finals, the Palo Alto High School girls’ varsity basketball team lost to Menlo Atherton High School, 31-34, on Saturday night.

The Vikings, seeded first in their division, triumphed in the CCS quarterfinals against Carlmont and semifinals against Los Gatos, which gave them the opportunity to fight for the title of CCS champions.

According to Viking junior forward Elif Turgut, the advancements the team made in the top division of their league came as a surprise to the players, especially with their top player, junior Annika Shah, being injured since the beginning of their season.

After junior shooting guard Carly Martin’s free throw, the Vikings continue to fight until the last second of the Central Coast Section Division I finals match. The Bears suddenly took the lead during the fourth quarter, which left the Vikings with an unexpected loss. “The season isn’t over yet, so that’s what we are looking forward to,” Turgut said. “There’s always the next game.” Photo: Emily Yun

“Nobody thought we could get this far,” Turgut said. “But we proved everyone wrong and we got to finals.”

With tensions at an all-time high, the game started off shaky for the Vikings, with several missed passes and shots. The Bears gained several points during the first couple of minutes, but were soon faced with a strong defense from the Vikings. Soon, the Vikings caught up, ending the first quarter in a tie, 6-6.

During the second quarter, the team made up for the shaky start with strong offensive plays. It began to pull ahead, with junior shooting guard Carly Martin and freshman shooting guard Kaella Peters scoring three-pointers. The second quarter ended with the Vikings ahead, 19-11.

The Vikings continued to stay ahead of the Bears with a tough defense. According to Viking freshman Julia Heiden, the close bond between the Vikings has greatly improved their coordination, and therefore strengthened their defensive plays.

“Our team works really well together,” Heiden said. “We really believe in each other.”

Turgut agrees that teamwork is a significant part of being a successful team.

“People tell me I should just take [the ball] to the rim and shoot for myself,” Turgut said. “But I’m not a selfish player. I want everyone to touch the ball because if we get that ball momentum going, then better things will happen for not just me but for the team.”

The score was consistent at 29-17 during the third and fourth quarters until the second half of the fourth quarter. The Bears began to strike back with aggressive offensive plays and shot two three-pointers and a two-pointer, all within a matter of seconds. 

At the last minute, the teams were tied, 31-31. The Bears’ offense got increasingly fierce as the Vikings’ defense continued to struggle.

With just three seconds left on the clock, the Bears scored a sudden three-pointer, leaving the Vikings hopeless. After Martin’s final missed free throws following a personal foul, the game came to an end, 31-34.

Despite the unsatisfactory result of the game, Turgut said it gave more motivation for the team to work harder to strengthen their skills.

“We played our hearts out,” Turgut said. “The results didn’t end up how we wanted them to end up, but we still all love each other. The season isn’t over yet, so that’s what we are looking forward to.”

The team will play against Los Gatos at 7 p.m. Thursday at Palo Alto High School for round two of the California Interscholastic Federation NorCals Division III.