Boy’s basketball comes back to top Gunn

Joseph Kessler and Avi Srinivasan

In a crosstown clash, the Palo Alto High School boys’ basketball team (7-1) came from behind in the fourth quarter to win 51-47 against the Gunn High School Titans (0-7) Friday night at Gunn, solidifying the Viking’s lead in league rankings.

This game was the second match-up between the two schools this season, with Paly winning the first at home, 47-37. The team has played 20 games this season, with four league games ahead until the playoff tournament.

According to Viking senior center Sean Hogan, the team knew this game would be crucial for the league standings.

“Coming into the game we were against a rival opponent,” Hogan said. “This game really mattered for us to get a shot at winning the league, and we knew we needed to win this game.”

The win against the Titans cemented the Viking’s first-place league standing in the DeAnza League, after being tied with Los Gatos coming into the game. According to viking Head Coach Jeff LaMere, being ranked first sets up the team with an advantage in the playoffs.

“If you can finish first place in our league, then you get a bye in the playoffs,” LaMere said. “You automatically get to the quarterfinals. So for us, we’re trying to work to get the best seat possible, but we also want to be getting better throughout the season.”

The first quarter was a tight match-up, with the Titans swiftly getting the first bucket of the game. Then, it turned into a shoot-out of back-and-forth baskets. Senior point guard Jackson Martin scored a three-point shot, answered by a three from Gunn’s Ethan Kitch at the end of the first quarter, finishing with the Titans down 11-9. 

During the second quarter, Paly fell behind, partly due to a large number of fouls and a big momentum swing. Gunn topped off the second quarter with a two-point buzzer-beater. Gunn senior forward Elliot Grant had multiple powerful drives to the hoop, along with senior guard Ethan Cheng who was scoring from all over the court. At halftime, Paly trailed Gunn by the largest deficit of the game, 28-17. 

According to LaMere, the Titans outplayed Paly in the first half.

“Hats off to them [the Titans] for how they played,” LaMere said. “They earned that lead so to speak. It wasn’t necessarily that we just played bad. No, they made us play bad.”

Although Paly was down, the second half was all about sophomore shooting guard Jorell Clark. With 49 seconds left in the third quarter, Clark hit a long three-pointer, and only a few seconds later had a loud block on defense. Clark scored 24 points in the game, 20 of them during the second half, with double-digit rebounds.

The fourth quarter brought edge-of-the-seat intensity. Paly senior guard Ethan Wong and Martin scored clutch buckets down the stretch. With 3:17 remaining, Hogan made an offensive rebound and a lay-up to bring Paly within two points of Gunn. 

Titan Shooting guard Ethan Cheng said the Titans’ energy dropped in the second half.

“They made shots, we missed shots — the intensity sort of died down a little bit,” Cheng said. “It was mostly mental, you know. In the first half we proved that we were the better team. But we just got to stick it out to them [Paly].”

Clark followed up with a layup to tie the game with 2:38 remaining, and then scored with a jumper off the glass to push Paly ahead.

The Vikings went on to score 24 points with Gunn only scoring four to close out the game.

Despite erasing a 15-point deficit at the end of the third quarter and placing first in the league, Hogan said the team still needs to sharpen some elements.

“Our transition defense, we let up too many fast break points,” Hogan said. “We let them get out and run on us, which wasn’t really good because they can’t really score on our half-court defense.” 

Martin agreed with Hogan, saying the team needs to continue playing intensely to match the competition, namely against Los Gatos this week.

“We need to take it one step at a time,” Martin said. “Our next goal is just playing Los Gatos at home. They’re also tied with us for first, so we got to really win that game.”

The Vikings will play Los Gatos at 7:40 p.m. next Wednesday at home.