Varsity girls’ basketball overcomes Homestead in close game

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Palo Alto High School freshman shooting guard Natalie Neumann drives past Homestead point guard Naomi Chow in the Paly-Homestead game Tuesday at home. According to Head Coach Scott Peters, the game followed a stretch of three canceled games due to the Omicron variant. “The three teams we were supposed to play [were] all canceled, postponed because of COVID,” Peters said. (Photo: Jonathan Chen)

After a nail-biting fourth quarter, the Palo Alto High School girls’ basketball team (3-0) narrowly defeated the Homestead Mustangs (2-1), 48-46, Wednesday night at home.

According to Head Coach Scott Peters, many of the team’s games were canceled due to the Omicron variant, making the game against Homestead the first in weeks.

We were happy to play again,” Peters said. “We haven’t played since Jan. 3 […] so we were excited to play [because] we were just tired of practicing against each other.”

The Vikings started off slow in the first quarter, unable to capitalize on shot attempts. A buzzer-beater three-pointer from freshman shooting guard Vienne Sheng ended the quarter with the Vikings just behind Homestead, 10-13. 

The Vikings picked up the pace in the second quarter, with Paly dominating the offense and consistently stealing the ball. Paly totaled four three-pointers during the quarter, with sophomore point guard Nadia Brown hitting two of them to secure a comfortable lead of 31-21 coming into halftime. 

“We are a three-point shooting team,” Scott Peters said. “We want to offensive rebound, and yeah that [three-pointers] is something that we look to do. We want to drive it to the rim, and if they help, we want to kick it out.” 

Despite the Vikings’ explosive second quarter, they slowed down in the third quarter, totaling only six points. Homestead took the chance to close the gap, making it a five-point game.

The fourth quarter came down to the wire, with both teams exchanging three-pointers. With 30 seconds left on the clock, Homestead hit a three to bring the score to 48-46. Homestead regained possession for the last couple of seconds, but Brown was able to contest the final shot and Homestead was unable to score in time. 

According to Scott Peters, Brown’s defensive pressure on Homestead in the final minutes was especially significant.

“Nadia made the defensive play of the game on their [the Mustang’s] last play,” Scott Peters said. “That’s a big deal. You know, we hit threes and we can talk about the shooting and all that. But Nadia came through with a defensive play. She remembered exactly what we went over.”

Junior point guard Kaella Peters said the Vikings focused on defense in the last moments of the game, when the Mustangs were trying for a final three-pointer to win the game.

“We were really just worrying no threes, no fouls and trying to execute,” Kaella Peters said. “And we did and we pulled through.” 

According to Homestead junior center Tatum Leuenberger, the Mustangs were desperate for an opportunity on the offensive. 

“We had to get a shot up, even if it was a bad one it’s better than nothing,” Leuenberger said. “Hopefully we could at least get to overtime.”

Leuenberger said the Mustangs struggled to defend against Paly’s offense.

“The Paly offense is very versatile, so it’s hard to be everywhere,” Leuenberger said. “I’d have to say our defense could be a bit better on covering their threes.”

Despite the well-fought victory, Viking junior power forward Itzel Torres said the team still has room for improvement. 

“We for sure need to continue moving on offense every game, not just this game, and keep up the same intensity for each team no matter how fast or how good [they are],” Torres said.

Scott Peters echoed Torres’ thoughts, saying that the lack of a strong Viking offense was a challenge.

“It was a little bit frustrating on offense because shots weren’t falling,” he said. “But we stayed positive and we just kept playing.”

He said that the team’s energy from its bench players was a key factor to the overall victory.

I thought our bench had great energy and kept us going when times were tough,” Scott Peters said. “That energy helped push us through.” 

The Vikings play next against Lynbrook (2-2) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home.