The Paly Voice

Basketball loses to Cupertino, 54-47

Grant Raffel, Author

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Forward Israel Hakim drives past Cupertino High School’s defense to lay in a basket in the first half of Friday night’s contest at Paly.

– Matt Ersted

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Palo Alto High School’s basketball team lost to Cupertino High School, 54-47, tonight at Paly.

It is only the third loss of the season for the Vikings (17-3, 7-2), who remain tied for the SCVAL De Anza division lead with Mountain View. Meanwhile, Cupertino (14-6, 5-3) moved itself up in the standings.

The real story of the game was Cupertino senior forward Gokul Natesan, who scored 32 points to lead all scorers. Senior forward Israel Hakim led the Vikings with 14 points.

“Cupertino came out and [Natesan] could really shoot,” Paly head coach Adam Sax said.  “We made a nice comeback after being down 10 [points], but then [Natesan] started hitting threes again.”

Hakim likewise praised Natesan’s play.

“We tried trapping him, but that didnt work,” he said.  “He’s so tall he can just pass over us.”

Natesan believes the Pioneers, who lost to the Vikings earlier this season, found success due to their hard week of practice in preparation for the game.

“Starting on Saturday we prepared for them,” he said. “Our coach put us through a lot of conditioning drills getting ready for the game because last time we played them we were [winning] after three quarters but we ran out of gas at the end.”

After a rough first half for the Vikings, junior forward E.J. Floreal, who scored nine points on the night, scored on an alley-oop dunk just 13 seconds into the second half, but the Vikings struggled until the three-minute mark of the third.

Junior guard Aldis Petriceks hit a three-pointer and the Vikings followed with consecutive steals and dunks by Floreal, igniting the team. Paly ended the third quarter on a 9-0 run and down just 34-35 to Cupertino.  

Palo Alto took its first lead since early in the first quarter one minute into the fourth quarter when senior forward Aubrey Dawkins hit a pair of free throws, contributing to his total of eight points and making it 36-35. The score remained tight after that, with the teams exchanging leads until Natesan converted a four-point play and Cupertino pulled six points ahead, 46-40, with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

The teams traded fouls and free throw attempts for much of the rest of the game. Cupertino extended its lead to 52-44 with 41 seconds left when it made two free throws, putting an end to Palo Alto’s hopes.

Hakim thinks that the Viking defense was at fault in the losing effort.

“We didn’t play defense,” Hakim said. “We didn’t get on the shooters.  [It was] just a poorly played game I thought.”

Sax also noted problems with Paly’s offense from the outside.

“We didn’t hit many perimeter shots tonight,” Sax said. “When we don’t score from the outside, it’s going to be a close game.”

After Paly took a 4-0 lead to start the game, Cupertino quickly scored 11 straight points and stayed in front, leading 15-12 at the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings failed to score in the first four-plus minutes of the second quarter and let Cupertino jump ahead 27-19 by halftime.

Petriceks had five points, while senior guard Alec Wong and senior center Tory Prati each had four, respectively.

The Vikings will next play Burlingame at 6:00 on Saturday, at home.  They will resume league play next Friday at Los Gatos, one of three remaining league games before the postseason.

Despite the loss, the future looks bright for Paly.

“We’re still tied for first [place], so it’s still our championship to lose,” Sax said. “We’ve got to win our next three league games and get at least a co-championship.”

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