Viking’s Defense Shines as Paly Beats Homestead on Senior Night, 47-33

A strong defensive effort and stellar performance from league MVP candidate Matthew Marzano (’20) power Vikes past Homestead on Senior Night


Jenna Hickey

The Seniors are honored during the Senior Night celebration Left to Right: Jamir Shepard, Ryan Purpur, Matthew Marzano, Elijah Steiner, Conner Lusk, Will DeAndre

Luke Thieman, Staff Writer

The Palo Alto Vikings men’s varsity basketball team defeated the Homestead Mustangs by a score of 47-33 on Friday night. Led by a stellar defensive effort and a strong performance from league MVP candidate Matthew Marzano (‘20), the Vikings were able to pull out the victory after celebrating the senior class.

The night began with a Senior Night ceremony honoring the teams seniors: Ryan Purpur, Conner Lusk, Will DeAndre, Jamir Shepard, Matthew Marzano, and Elijah Steiner. Each player was introduced with friends and family and received a standing ovation from the home crowd. Students held signs dedicated to the senior class, and have custom-made cutouts of all the seniors’ faces.

Senior point guard Conner Lusk sustained an arm injury earlier in the season and has been sidelined since. Despite his injury he suited up and lined up on the court for the opening tip. The Vikings won the tip-off and passed the ball to Lusk in the backcourt. He stood with the ball to a roaring ovation from the crowd and eventually took a backcourt violation. At the stoppage he was substituted out of the game and another loud ovation and chants of his name. He has been a star for the team throughout his high school career, and the Paly fans showed appreciation and love on his last Senior Night.

Vikings head coach Jeff LaMere spoke about the opening moments of the game dedicated to Lusk.

“I thought it was nice…” LaMere said. “I have to really compliment the other coach, who set that up and agreed to do that.”

After the emotional start to the night, the game got underway. The game was close early on, and after the first quarter the Vikings led 11-8. The game remained close going into the half, and the Vikings headed to the locker rooms with a three point lead. 

The game stayed close early in the second half, and neither team was able to build any momentum. However, about midway through the third quarter, the Vikings seized control of the game. From that point on, they took control of the momentum and finished strong. According to coach LaMere, the key to the Vikings second half surge was a defensive shift. 

“Even in the third quarter the game was a little disjointed,” LaMere said. “We weren’t defending very well. We switched defenses and that kinda broke their rhythm.”

The success on the defensive end helped the team offensively as well.

“Their pressure was speeding us up, but they only got into their pressure after they scored,” LaMere said. “And so when we switched defenses, it took away their ability to score and then all of a sudden we were able to come down offensively and get easier baskets.”

The defensive shift was a key moment in the game, and the Vikes’ strong defense was the key to victory. 

When we switched defenses, it took away their ability to score and then all of a sudden we were able to come down offensively and get easier baskets.”

— Jeff LaMere

Junior Forward Aidan Rausch (‘21) was a key part of the Vikings strong defense and spoke about its importance to the victory.

“We are a defensive team,” Rausch said. “We rely on our defense to win games, as is shown by the scoreboard. We didn’t get many shots up and we didn’t score many points, but they didn’t either and that’s because of our defense. That’s how we won this game, and that’s how we’re gonna win in the future.”

The leading figure of the Viking’s dominant second half was Matthew Marzano (‘20). He led the team in scoring, finishing with 17 points on 60% shooting from the field. In addition to scoring, he was an impact player in all facets of the game. He added 8-plus rebounds multiple assists, which helped facilitate the offense. 

“The guy that’s really been a linchpin for what we do is Matthew Marzano,” LaMere said. “I think he’s the best player in the league, and he’s really carried us. He’s a very very special player, he plays so hard every minute of the game. Offensively and Defensively he makes an impact.”

In the end the Vikings were able to wear down Homestead, dominating the scoreboard in the second half. Palo Alto outscored Homestead 17-9 in the third quarter, and iced the game with a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter. The Vikings won by a final score of 47-33. 

Jenna Hickey
Matt Marzano goes up strong for a layup during his 17-point performance in the win.

Our playstyle is to grind them out through the whole four quarters,” Rausch said. “Homestead was able to compete with us for the first two but we just kept () doing our thing consistently, beating them down, slowly breaking their defense. That’s how we were able to beat them.”

Though Marzano is the standout performance of the night, LaMere was extremely happy with the performances of the other seniors, whose impact on the game went beyond the box score. 

“I’m really proud of all the seniors,” LaMere said. “I thought the seniors really came to play and were ready to win.”

It is evident that LaMere is extremely proud of the contributions of the senior players honored Friday Night.

“To have a guy like Purpur who can score inside and defend and rebound for you…” LaMere said. “Will DeAndre’s been a real vocal leader for us all season. He’s a guy that’s very outgoing, and that’s been important for us. To have Jamir, people know Jamir his football prowess but he’s a heck of a basketball player as well. It’s neat to have someone like Elijah Steiner…he gives us really good minutes.”

Ryan Purpur finished with 8 points, and Jamir Shepard added 7 points to go along with 5 rebounds in a solid all-around performance. 

The Vikings take on Milpitas next Wednesday, February 12, away. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.