Boys’ basketball falls to top-ranked Salesian

    Junior guard Spencer Rojahn plays defense on Salesian’s University of Connecticut bound James Akinjo on Saturday at the Peery Family Center. Rojahn led Paly with 20 points and Akinjo led Salesian with 23, but it was Akinjo’s playmaking abilities that caused the Vikings problems in their loss, 65-57. "We tried to put a taller player on him, [Rojahn], and make shoot outside contested shots," Diepenbrock said. "He did and he made them." Photo: Benner Mullin

    Senior guard Spencer Rojahn plays defense on Salesian’s University of Connecticut-bound James Akinjo on Saturday at the Peery Family Center. Rojahn led Paly with 20 points and Akinjo led Salesian with 23, but it was Akinjo’s playmaking abilities that caused the Vikings problems in their loss, 65-57. “We tried to put a taller player on him [Akinjo] and make shoot outside contested shots,” Paly head coach Peter Diepenbrock said. “He did and he made them.” Photo: Benner Mullin

    Watching senior guard Spencer Rojahn play defense against Salesian was exhausting. Rojahn was asked to complete an impossible task: guard Salesian senior James Akinjo. Akinjo, a commit to play basketball at the University of Connecticut next year, is a relentless player and if given just an arm’s length of space, will explode to the basket for a layup or pull up to hit a jumper in his defender’s face. Rojahn was forced to overreact to every fake by Akinjo, in order to not allow an easy bucket, and it took a toll on the Paly defense.

    Despite an early lead, the Palo Alto boys’ basketball team (2-2, 0-0), was unable to hold off the Salesian Pride (6-0, 0-0), the No. 1 team in Northern California, and lost, 65-57.

    Head coach Peter Diepenbrock says there are a number of positives to take away from the Viking’s effort.

    “We can move forward knowing that we can play competitively with anybody,” Diepenbrock said. “We just need [to] get better at our ability to handle ball pressure. It’s easier to slow the game down then it is to speed it up.”

    Paly started off hot, getting two quick three-pointers from senior guard Jared Wulbrun, who left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle injury.

    Salesian stayed within striking defense by hitting a couple of mid-range jumpers, taking a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 13-12.

    The second quarter belonged to the Vikings, with the help of Rojahn, Paly’s leading scorer with 20 points, who hit four three-pointers to give Paly an eight-point lead heading into the break, 32-24.

    Palo Alto played all-around great basketball in the second quarter. They dissected Salesian’s constant, high octane full court press with ease, played methodical offense that created open shots, and crashed the defensive glass and boxed out.

    Senior forward William Schlemmer says much of Paly’s success against the full court press came from its work in practice.

    “We practiced what we wanted to do against the press, which included [me] or someone else bigger handling the ball because their big guys were reluctant to come guard us on the full court so it relieved pressure,” Schlemmer said.

    In the third quarter, Salesian came out with a renewed energy and the Pride roared back to take a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, 49-43.

    According to Schlemmer, Paly’s mindset coming out of halftime needs to change.

    “We just need to realized that teams are going to come out firing on all cylinders when they’re down, and we should be the ones who overwhelm them with energy and not the other way around,” Schlemmer said. “We should use halftime to rest and use the first few minutes of the third quarter going all out to try and put the game away.”

    Akinjo, who led all scorers with 23 points, aided Salesian’s comeback by connecting on three three-pointers in the third quarter.

    “We tried to put a taller player on him, [Rojahn], and make shoot outside contested shots,” Diepenbrock said. “He did and he made them.”

    Paly showed perseverance in the fourth quarter, cutting the Salesian lead to just two points with under five minutes to play. Immediately after getting a stop down two, Paly turned the ball over for a Salesian three.

    The Vikings stayed close but never were able to regain the lead before the final buzzer. Paly committed fourteen turnovers in the game, including a number of crucial turnovers down the stretch, which spoiled any chance they had of completing a comeback.

    Paly faces Carlmont High School (4-3, 0-0) in a non-league game at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Peery Family Center.

    Senior forward William Schlemmer waits for the jump ball to start Paly’s game against Salesian on Saturday at the Peery Family Center. Schlemmer believes the Vikings need to come out stronger in the third quarter of games, as Paly lost a an eight point lead in the third quarter. "We just need to realized that teams are going to come out firing on all cylinders when they’re down, and we should be the ones who overwhelm them with energy and not the other way around," Schlemmer said. "We should use halftime to rest and use the first few minutes of the third quarter going all out to try and put the game away." Photo: Benner Mullin

    Senior forward William Schlemmer waits for the jump ball to start Paly’s game against Salesian on Saturday at the Peery Family Center. Schlemmer believes the Vikings need to come out stronger in the third quarter of games, as Paly lost an eight-point lead in the third quarter. “We just need to realized that teams are going to come out firing on all cylinders when they’re down, and we should be the ones who overwhelm them with energy and not the other way around,” Schlemmer said. Photo: Benner Mullin

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