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Vikings fall short in CCS semifinals against Bears

Palo Alto High School Viking senior guard Riley Yuen dribbles past a Menlo-Atherton High School Bear to get to the basket during the team’s semifinals Central Coast Section match on Thursday. Although the Vikings mounted a comeback in the first quarter, the team was not able to keep that lead and ultimately fell to the Menlo-Atherton High School Bears, 49-54. According to Viking head coach Jeff LaMere, he was proud of the way his team battled through adversity during the match. “It [the pressure of the match] wasn’t so much about it being a semifinal game as it was about the opponent we’re playing,” LaMere said. “One of the difficult things about a tournament is the quick one-day turnaround. We talked a lot about how to prepare against their ball pressure … and our guys did a good job. Overall, I’m proud of our effort and how we fought the entire game.” (Photo: Ketan Altekar-Okazaki)

In a game highlighted by a tight scoreline, the Palo Alto High School varsity boys’ basketball team (8-4) lost, 49-54, to the Menlo-Atherton High School Bears (7-3) in the Thursday game that decided who would move on to the Division I Central Coast Section finals.

The Vikings started off cold and were down 2-10 early in the first quarter. But the Vikings’ defense virtually locked down the Bears’ offense, and five Vikings scored points consecutively, allowing them to get back on track. The quarter concluded with the Bears barely leading by a score of 13-12.

“We didn’t make a whole lot of strategy changes in that first quarter,” Viking head coach Jeff LaMere said. “Our guys know they’re good players and they knew coming in that Menlo-Atherton was as good of a team as any. We settled into our rhythm and hit a shot; once that happens, things tend to relax a little bit.”

According to senior guard Tyler Martin, the Vikings were able to take the lead after adjusting to the rhythm of the game.

“We started slowly, but we adjusted and started playing to their energy and tempo,” Martin said. “We started attacking them and not backing down, and we started playing more confidently.”

Bear head coach Mike Molieri said his team’s fast-paced nature began to hurt them after Palo Alto remained calm.

“We wanted to put our typical Bear aggressiveness into the game,” Molieri said. “I’ll give credit to Palo Alto; they were down 10-2, and they didn’t panic. They took the lead and started making shots.”

The Bears countered the Vikings’ momentum at the start of the second quarter with a series of layups, primarily from senior John Anderson. However, a series of five 3-pointers, including three from junior point guard Gavin Haase, allowed the Vikings to recapture the lead by the end of the quarter, with the score at 30-25.

According to Bear sophomore point guard Jacob Sutton, the team knew that it needed to make some changes given the deficit by the end of the half. 

“We made some adjustments to the defense during the half,” Sutton said. “We stuck together as a team, we calmed each other down, and we went out there.”

Following halftime, the Bears came out with renewed vigor, showcasing strong defense and a fast-paced offense. The Vikings struggled to keep up with the Bears’ offense throughout the quarter, and a last-second 3-pointer by Bear senior Trevor Cadigan put the Bears ahead 40-37 at the end of the quarter.

In the final quarter, the Vikings were unable to regain the lead. A series of layups by senior Justin Moore and senior Jonah Missan gave the Bears a comfortable lead heading into the final minutes of the game. Ultimately, the Bears emerged victorious with a final score of 54-49.

According to Sutton, the Bears won due to their consistent defense throughout the match. 

“It was all about the defense,” Sutton said. “We played with intensity, we played with energy and we just fought throughout the entire match.”

LaMere said that although this was not the ending his team wanted, it was still a rewarding game, especially for the seniors. 

“We had a fantastic season: We finished second in [the De Anza] league and made the CCS semi-finals,” LaMere said. “We’ve played well enough that hopefully we get a chance to advance to the state tournament. I’m proud of our team and what they did this year. All of our seniors have been in the program for all four years, so seeing their growth from freshmen to seniors is truly gratifying.”

The Vikings are set to compete in the state championship playoffs on Tuesday against the Ripon High School Indians (10-2) at home.

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About the Contributors
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Senior Staff Writer
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his junior year and enjoys volunteering in his free time.
Maxwell Zhang
Maxwell Zhang, Senior Staff Writer
Maxwell Zhang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his sophomore year and wishes to pursue management and STEM in college.

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