On Saturday night, the boys’ basketball team battled against the Menlo-Atherton Bears in what will be it’s last game of the season during the CCS (Central Coast Section) quarter-finals at Piedmont Hills High School.
Energy was high during the pre-game festivities as both Paly and Menlo-Atherton students’ erupted in multiple chants just before the whistle was blown. Paly won the tip-off and gained possession, but momentum did not carry over as Keesean Johnson (‘14) missed the basket after driving to shoot. Menlo-Atherton got the rebound and earned the first two points just over a minute into the game.
Two minutes into the quarter, Paly’s leading scorer Kevin Mullin (‘15) sunk a three-pointer gaining momentum back and earning the first points for Paly. However, Menlo-Atherton quickly drained another three pointer in a counter-attack. Clark Schmutz (‘14) and Johnson put up additional points for Paly and the score was tied up 8-8 half way through the quarter.
Menlo-Atherton’s momentum only grew after Paly turned over the ball, giving up two points in transtiton. With nearly three minutes left, Paly was down by six points. Mullin (‘15) earned an additional two points, but this was not enough to match Menlo-Atherton’s strong offense.
Justin Hull (‘16) stole the ball and darted down the court, only to have it swatted down by a Menlo-Atherton defender when he attempted to shoot—a rumble of excitement arose from Menlo Atherton fans. Matt Fogarty (‘14) and Johnny Rojhan (‘15) also missed scoring opportunities, closing out the first quarter 14-10 in favor of Menlo-Atherton.
The second quarter started out fast after Menlo-Atherton scored a three-pointer, which was quickly answered by Mullin who took a jump-shot and swished the ball through the net. The back-and-forth gameplay continued as Johnson got a lay-up to match the two points put up by Menlo-Atherton. The Vikings slipped into the lead by one point when Mullin gained another three points.
Schmutz increased the narrow lead to 19-21 when he made a free-throw but Menlo-Atherton fought back, getting a two-pointer and tying up the score 21-21. Menlo-Atherton dominated the rest of the quarter, and Paly walked off the court at half-time down 31-23.
“I feel like we came out slacking off a bit in the first half”, Johnson said, “But in the second half we came out and gave it our all”.
Intensity on the court and in the stands only escalated during the third quarter. The Vikings demonstrated resilience from the first half, putting up a total of fourteen points in this quarter alone. Johnson scored twice from the foul line and contributed two additional points from a lay-up. Mullin was also an impact player during the third quarter earning seven points overall. The two worked together during one highlight play when Johnson with the rebound, rocketed the ball across the court to Mullin who made a jump-shot as the clock wound down in the quarter. Paly’s defense was able to hold Menlo-Atherton to only eight points, and the Vikings were down 39-37 at the end of the quarter.
Heading into the final quarter of the game, anticipation in the crowd ran high as Paly was trailing Menlo-Atherton by a mere two points. Spirited cries broke out from Paly students as Johnson drove to the net, scoring two points despite being fouled and narrowing Menlo-Atherton’s lead to 42-41.
However, Menlo-Atherton’s offense responded swiftly, putting up an additional two points. With only three minutes left in the game, Johnson, the sole scorer for the Vikings during the fourth quarter, earned two more points from a lay-up—the score was 46-43.
As the clock ran down with only 45 seconds left in the game and Menlo-Atherton sunk a three pointer, so did the hearts of the Paly fans. After scoring the final points of the game from the foul line, Menlo Atherton clenched the 51-43 victory—a heartbreaking loss that ended the Vikings’ season and shattered hopes to advance to the championship game due to the single elimination rule of the CCS tournament.
“They fought hard, very hard,” Dan Starret (Superfan Dan) said. “I know they tried…and they really played their hearts out.”
Head coach Adam Sax commented on the teams effort and commitment.
“First half I thought we gave up some easy baskets,” Sax said. “I thought the second half they put a lot of energy and effort in, and we needed to do that defensively ‘cause they were a lot bigger than us so we really had to battle.”
The Vikings’ finished off their season with an overall record of 14-11. Despite this season’s heartbreaking ending, next year’s team brings hopes of high success.
“I’m looking forward to next year” said Sax,“We got eight guys coming back, so we gotta nice veteran group coming back. They’re all gonna be seniors now and we got some young guys who I think will flourish next year…there’s a lot of talent coming up”.