Boys’ basketball clinches league title in emphatic win over Los Gatos
In Ronald McNulty’s final game as Palo Alto’s Public Address (PA) Announcer, the Paly boys’ basketball team (20-2, 10-0) defeated the Los Gatos Wildcats (16-6, 7-3), 72-61, clinching its second straight De Anza League title.
The Vikings won their 18th straight contest and continued their unbeaten streak in 2018 and demolition of the De Anza League.
According to head coach Peter Diepenbrock, Paly was eager to have a chance to clinch the league title against the Wildcats.
“We lost to them two years in a row at ‘home’ so it was a chance to show we are a different team this year,” Diepenbrock said.
Paly and Los Gatos played even basketball through the first half, trading buckets and the lead, where the Vikings led, 33-32.
Palo Alto, notorious for low-energy third quarters, came out of the half with incredible energy. Seniors Spencer Rojahn, William Schlemmer, Will Schmutz, and Rojahn again hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions, opening up a nine-point Paly advantage.
“We knew that it was anybody’s game coming into the third quarter since we were only up one and wanted to come out and throw the first punch on defense so they couldn’t recover,” Schlemmer said. “Schmutz’s ball pressure made it really tough for them to start any sort of offense so that really helped us get rolling.”
Schmutz hounded Los Gatos point guard Frank Polisso, picking his pocket three times and disrupted the Wildcats’ offensive rhythm.
Palo Alto found success slipping its on-ball screens and diving to the hoop, which forced Los Gatos to help off the wing, leading to open three-pointers, or not help off and give up open layups straight down the paint.
On the defensive end, the Vikings swarmed the ball, contested shots, and boxed out, holding the Wildcats to a measly four points in the period.
Behind Rojahn’s 11 points in the third, Paly extended its lead to 16 points, 52-36.
“I was able to use my length to get rebounds over their guards,” Rojahn said. “Also, even though they tried to deny me, I was able to get the ball in the post and on the win and shoot over them because of my height advantage.”
Los Gatos refused to give in and seniors Dylan Belquist and Alex Braken-Guelke poured in 19 fourth-quarter points. Despite the best efforts of Belquist, who led all scorers with 30 points, and Braken-Guelke the Wildcats were unable to overcome the Palo Alto lead, resulting in a 72-61 Viking victory.
Paly had a balanced scoring attack, with four players in double-figure points totals: Rojahn with 21, senior forward Max Dorward with 14, senior center Bryant Jefferson with 13, and senior guard Jared Wulbrun with ten.
The Vikings play their second to last league contest at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Mountain View High School (11-11, 2-8).