Girls’ basketball narrowly beats Sacred Heart Cathedral at CCS

Despite a 10-point deficit at the start of the second half, the Palo Alto High School girls’ basketball team overcame the Sacred Heart Cathedral Fightin’ Irish, 47-43, during the last round of the Central Coast Section open-division tournament Wednesday night away in San Francisco. 

The Viking win secured Paly’s spot in the upcoming Northern California Division tournament.

Head coach Scott Peters said the team’s first victory in the open division was well-fought for after the Vikings lost to Saint Ignatius, 42-61, and Pinewood, 45-77, in the first two rounds. 

“We knew we had a couple of hard games against some really good teams that helped prepare us for another tough team [in this game],” Peters said. 

The second half was especially transformative for the Vikings. Paly started off the half down 19-29 but came back, slimming the game to a 1-point separation at the end due to a series of strong offensive and defensive plays. According to Peters, the Vikings’ relentless persistence helped keep them strong throughout the game.

“[We kept] composure in the second half when we got down 10 [points],” Peters said. “We didn’t throw in the towel; we just kept fighting and trusted each other and then we hit some big shots.”

Freshman shooting guard Vienn Sheng continued her recent streak of dominance throughout the game, scoring 22 points in total and playing a pivotal role for a first-year varsity player.

“Being a freshman doesn’t really matter,” Sheng said. “I feel like no matter your age you can be however good you want to be.”

In the first quarter, both Paly and Sacred Heart Cathedral played hard on offense. The Vikings gained a small lead from quick passing plays, ending the quarter 15-10.

The Vikings started the second quarter with another offensive pass play, resulting in Sheng sinking a three-pointer. However, the Fighting Irish came back with a layup and three-pointer. Even so, the Vikings continued their defensive pressure and were able to catch rebounds after missed shots and layups, with Sheng hitting another three to end the quarter, 19-24.

Coming into the second half down by 5, the Vikings looked to slow down the pace and create better opportunities to score, according to sophomore point guard Nadia Brown. 

“During our huddle during halftime, we just told each other we have to work as a team, stay calm with the ball, and make sure we’re getting good passes,” Brown said. 

The Fightin’ Irish started the third quarter strong, with two consecutive layups and drives. They then drew a foul and sent it to the free-throw line, putting the Vikings down 10 points, 29-19, the largest Viking deficit of the game. 

Despite the deficit, the Vikings continued to fight hard. A series of rebounds from small forward Itzel Torres led to a floater from Sheng, and two back-to-back three-pointers from point guard Kaella Peters and Sheng put the Vikings within two points, 29-27.

“We didn’t quit or crack when we got down by 10,” Peters said. “We just kept playing and our defense spurred us. Itzel Torres was unbelievable in the second half defensively [and] setting the tone on defense with her blocks and defensive steals. Just effort willed us back into the game.” 

After a timeout from Sacred Heart, the Vikings continued their momentum, with Torres hitting two free-throws and Sheng hitting a three-pointer in the final seconds of the quarter to put the Vikings up by one, 31-32. 

According to Sheng, the deficit early on in the third quarter motivated the Vikings to come back. 

“I saw the score getting closer and I just thought we have to win this game,'” Sheng said. “I was going to do whatever I could to win and it just really pushed me, especially in the third quarter; it [the game] got really close.” 

The fourth quarter started off slow for both teams, with neither team able to score for the first 3 minutes. A layup from a Fighting Irish guard broke the streak, which was followed up by a three-pointer from Fiske. However, the Vikings started to struggle offensively, accumulating two quick turnovers from inbounds passes, which allowed Sacred Heart to take the lead, 37-35. 

“We knew this was going to be the closest game out of all three CCS games,” Sheng said. 

Despite being down with 4 minutes left, the Vikings continued to fight, with freshman shooting guard Natalie Neumann sinking three consecutive free throws and Peters hitting a three. A series of free throws from the Vikings closed out the game, 43-47. 

According to Torres, who ended the game with 10 defensive rebounds, the team is eager to move onto the NorCal division and prove themselves. 

“This team has a lot of chemistry and I know that no matter how much, how many points down we are, we’re still going to come up,” Torres said. “So coming in NorCal I’m sure we’re all going to be ready to play and ready to win.” 

The Vikings are set to move on to the NorCal State Tournament after Archbishop Mitty and Pinewood play at the CCS championships game 6 p.m. Friday at the Kaiser Arena in Santa Cruz.