The Paly Voice

Boys' basketball overtakes first-place Spartans in a thriller, 51-48

Grant Raffel, Author

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In a Santa Clara Valley Athletic League boys’ basketball showdown between its top two teams, the Palo Alto High School Vikings defeated the visiting Mountain View High School Spartans in a tightly fought contest tonight, 51-48.

Senior forward Israel Hakim had 22 points, while junior forward E.J. Floreal added 13 to pace the Vikings (16-2, 5-1) in their win over first-place Mountain View (16-3, 6-1), avenging their 62-43 loss to the Spartans earlier this season.

“I thought defensively we played a lot better than we did the first time,” head coach Adam Sax said.  “Last time we gave them too many looks. This time the guys really buckled down and played a lot better defense.”

Paly appeared to be pulling away from the Spartans in what had been a close contest all night, until Mountain View clawed its way back to within two points at the 12-second mark of the fourth quarter with a three-pointer.  

Senior guard Alec Wong made the first of two free throws on a one-and-one opportunity following a Mountain View foul on a disorganized Paly inbounds pass that was almost stolen.  

The Spartans rebounded Wong’s miss and called timeout with seven seconds to go, but failed to make an off-balance three-pointer as time expired, giving Paly the victory and a tie for first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division.

“It’s a great win for the guys,” Sax said.  “They played hard. They worked hard all week and they deserved it.”

Sax also noted the play of junior guard Mathias Schmutz, who hit a three in the waning seconds of the first half to put Palo Alto up, 27-20. Schmutz scored eight points on the night, including another three-pointer.

“Offensively I thought we did a good job executing, especially in the first half, and got a lot of easy looks,” Schmutz said.  “I think the shot at the end of the first half helped with my confidence.”

Wong added four points for the Vikings, while junior guard Aldis Petriceks and senior center Tory Prati rounded out the scoring with two points each.

Despite the success of both teams this season, the game saw its share of turnovers and missed shots on either side of the floor. Sax and Schmutz both stated this could be attributed to the strong Viking and Spartan defenses.

Paly will look to extend its six-game winning streak when it faces crosstown rival Gunn High School at 7:45 p.m. next Wednesay, Feb. 1, in Paly’s main gym.

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