Vikings narrowly lose to Los Gatos Wildcats in buzzer-beater ending


Daniel Garepis-Holland

Trying to weave his way through defenders, sophomore Jorell Clark dribbles down the court last Wednesday at Palo Alto High School. The Vikings lost to the Wildcats 34-36 after a desperate shot from Los Gatos barely made it in before the game ended. According to the Wildcats’ Head Coach Nick Ward, his team knew that they didn’t perform well in the beginning, but also that they had enough time to turn it around. “We knew we hadn’t played our best [during the first half], but we knew we had an additional 16 minutes to play,” Ward said. “Our guys came out and did a really good job executing starting third quarter really gave us a boost to get going. In the end, we made a couple plays and the game came out positive for us.” (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

After a fourth-quarter last-second shot from the Wildcats, the Palo Alto High School boys’ varsity basketball team (7-2) fell to the Los Gatos Wildcats (7-1) at Palo Alto High School, 34-36 last Wednesday, losing the game and the first seed in the DeAnza league for the Vikings. 

This game was crucial for securing the Vikings’ top spot in the league, and the importance of the match was evident in the intensity of play.

Wildcats Head Coach Nick Ward said that the event was especially important to him and his team because its result could change the course of their season.

“No game is gonna be easy, and this was no exception,” Ward said. “We were essentially tied for first place coming into it, so we had the mentality of doing whatever it takes to win the game.”

The game started off with a block by Viking senior Jackson Martin followed by one from Viking sophomore Jorell Clark, which quickly set the tone for the quarter. Clark made a layup from the back which was soon followed by a layup from Los Gatos. Both teams traded shots, but Paly was in the lead after a three-pointer from Clark and a free throw by senior Noah Chen, ending the quarter ahead 10-6.

The second quarter started with Los Gatos scoring a string of points — two layups and two free throws — giving them the lead, 10-12. However, Paly quickly shifted to offense and the score was 16-14 with two minutes left in the half. The Vikings then extended their lead with an additional two layups to end the half 20-14. 

According to Vikings head coach Jeff LaMere, the Wildcats were playing with an aggressive style and the Vikings needed to be able to match it. 

“We showed a lot of toughness during the first half,” LaMere said. “We know they’re a very physical team and they’re a great team. [Los Gatos] played hard so we needed to be able to match their physical toughness, which I thought we did in the first half.”

Clark said that although the Vikings played well in the first half, they knew they had to keep it up in the second half.

“It felt great,” Clark said. “We knew we had to maintain it [the lead]. We wanted to be strong with the ball, no turnovers, just play solid defense and keep doing what we did in the first half.”

During the beginning of the second half, the Wildcats answered the Vikings with three layups scored by Los Gatos junior power forward Nolan Koch and one scored by Los Gatos sophomore small forward Scotty Brennan, creating a 20-22 lead for Los Gatos. However, they were not able to hold on to this lead for long. After a series of fouls committed by Los Gatos, the Vikings regained the lead, heading into the fourth quarter ahead, 26-24. 

According to LaMere, the Vikings had a rough third quarter start because they couldn’t keep up with the Wildcats’ fierce demeanor.

“We didn’t begin the second half very well,” LaMere said. “We were not scoring for a while, which helped Los Gatos take a lead. We just weren’t playing with the same energy… as we were in the first half.”

In the final quarter, the score went back and forth with Paly scoring layups while Los Gatos scored free throws. With 40 seconds left, Brennan was fouled and scored two free throws and a layup to tie the score at 34-34. Los Gatos regained the ball at seven seconds, and Wildcats junior shooting guard, Ronan Chinmulgund, was able to score a layup with less than a second remaining, winning 34-36. 

Chinmulgund said his split-second decision that resulted in the Wildcats’ triumph was merely to prevent overtime. 

“There were four seconds left,” Chinmulgund said. “I just wanted to get a shot up and I didn’t want overtime to happen, so I got the ball, took it to the hoop, and was able to end the game.”

LaMere said that the team struggled to take action, due partially to the Wildcats’ defensive skills. 

Los Gatos senior point guard, Max Houghton, dribbles past half-court on the way to the basket. (Photo: Daniel Garepis-Holland)

“There was a lot of grabbing and holding, and we just had to play through it which we weren’t,” LaMere said. “They did a great job defensively against us, making it hard for us to score and then they got some easy layups to help them out.”

He also said that although the Vikings’ have been top in the league, the team needs to work on their offensive skills moving forward into the final games of the season.

“I think we’ve had a pretty good year,” LaMere said. “We are 16-5 overall, and we are 7-2 in the league. We still have three games left and we have to continue to keep our edge stay healthy and be able to play at as high of an intensity tonight.”


The Vikings are scheduled to play their next game at 7 p.m. Wednesday against the Eagles (4-5) at Los Altos High School.