Boys’ basketball holds off Gunn, 65-54

Aaron Chum and Edward Mei

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The Palo Alto High School boys’ varsity basketball team (17-2-0) extended its winning streak in a 65-54 triumph over the Gunn High School Titans (6-13-0) today.

Victory did not come easy for the Vikings, however, as the Titans jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter. The Vikings seemed determined to put the game away early, but quick three pointers and putback layups from the Titans paired with early offensive struggles from the Vikings left Gunn leading 16-15 after the first quarter.

The second quarter showed similar signs of the Vikings’ shooting struggles. It wasn’t until four and a half minutes left in the first half, with Paly down 25-20, that the Vikings seemed to finally get back in the game. A layup by junior forward Aubrey Dawkins followed by a thunderous fast break dunk by fellow junior forward E.J Floreal capped a quick run that brought the Vikings within one.

In the final possession of the first half, Floreal again converted a steal with a monstrous slam, securing a 32-29 lead going into halftime.

The Vikings carried the momentum into the second half, with junior guard Mathias Schmutz nailing a pair of three pointers, including one just as time expired in the third quarter, and senior forward Israel Hakim scoring on consecutive drives. Paly extended the lead to 12 at the end of the third quarter, 47-35.

The Vikings continued to add to their lead in the fourth quarter by revamping their defense and exploiting Gunn’s 2-3 zone with ball movement. Even though Gunn clawed its way back to a nine point deficit with several three pointers, it was not enough as the Vikings held on for a 65-54 win.

Head coach Adam Sax noted that the team shifted its defensive strategy as the game wore on.

“First half, I think Gunn hit a lot of open shots,” Sax said. “They were really on fire, really feeling it. We just had to extend the defense out and take away the three. And that slowed them down a little bit.”

Schmutz led the team with 20 points, which included multiple three pointers throughout the game.  Dawkins came up big for the Vikings as well, scoring 16. 

Floreal rounded out the top three scorers for the Vikings with 13 points. Floreal added multiple dunks during the game, including several off missed shots by fellow Vikings.

The Vikings’ next game will be against the Cupertino High School Pioneers (13-6-0) at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, at Paly.