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The Paly Voice

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Girls’ basketball: Vikings overcome Wilcox on last-second free throws

Annie Susco (’13), Josie Butler (’13), Maddy Atwater (’16) and Coco Lovely (’16) set up on defense for the Vikings. Paly pulled out a narrow victory over the Wilcox Chargers when Atwater hit a pair of free throws after time had expired. Photo by Edward Mei

Free throws are the most underrated aspect of a basketball game. Often overlooked, basketball players focus more on the glory points: the last-second fade-away jumpers, the dunks, the three-point shots, all because they just feel like they are worth more. Tonight at Palo Alto High School, however, two free throws were worth the entire game.

Freshman guard Maddy Atwater sunk two free throws after time expired, giving the Paly girls’ basketball team (7-8, 3-1) a stunning 43-42 win over the Wilcox Chargers (14-2, 2-2).

With 2.5 seconds left on the clock and the Vikings down 41-42, freshman guard Coco Lovely inbounded the ball to freshman guard Siggi Bengston, who threw up a shot as the clock wound down.  With a second left, Atwater grabbed the rebound and heaved the ball toward the basket as time expired.  But before the buzzer sounded, the tweet of the referee’s whistle interrupted play – Atwater had gotten fouled on the shot.

With no time left on the clock, Atwater stepped up to the line, her teammates and opponents all behind half court.

“Going out there I was really nervous and shaking, but I know no matter what the outcome was I know I had my team,” Atwater said.

But after she swished the first free throw, Atwater had no reason to be nervous. The game was now tied at 42, and now a second free throw would automatically secure a Viking victory. Moments later, the second touched nothing but net and the Vikings were victorious.

Head coach Scott Peters had faith in his player all along.

“She’s our best free throw shooter so if anyone’s gonna be there at the line it’s her,” he said. “I was watching her and she was hoping and praying… but, she’s a good foul shooter so I think she just trusted herself and she did well.”

Down 10 points going into the fourth quarter, the Vikings seemed to have fallen into a hole too deep to overcome. The Chargers dominated the boards and played pesky defense that led to steals and fast break opportunities while the Vikings could not buy themselves a bucket, airballing their first three three-point tries in the quarter.

Yet the Vikings, resilient and unwavering, stormed back with a 13-3 run that relied heavily on the three ball. A pair of triples from freshman guards Bengston and Atwater cut the lead to three, and freshman forward Alexis Harris followed with consecutive three pointers of her own, tying the game at 41 apiece.

“It [the comeback] was definitely a mental thing,” Atwater said. “We were all getting a little upset, but we  bounced off each other’s energy and picked each other up to get back into the game.”

The crowd could feel the energy radiating off of the emotional Paly team, and the Vikings responded by riding that momentum into the game’s final moments. Inspired, the girls pushed up the intensity which allowed them to catch up after a slow third quarter where the Vikings lost their first-half lead.

The Vikings, with this victory, handed the Chargers only their second loss of the season, and improved their own league record to 3-1, good for third in the SCVAL De Anza Division standings.

Bengston led the way with nine points and the rest of the team distributed the scoring load evenly: Harris and Atwater recorded eight points apiece, Lovely followed with seven and seniors Annie Susco and Josie Butler had five and six points, respectively.

Up next at home for the Vikings is a visit from their crosstown rivals, the Gunn Titans, at 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25.  Even after a big win, Peters knows the team has room for improvement.

“We gotta keep getting better everyday,” he said.  “These girls haven’t been playing with each other for two or three years, [so] this is kind of a new team so … we just gotta keep working and be better by next week and then the week after that.”

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Edward Mei, Author
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