The Sacred Heart Prep and Palo Alto boys' basketball teams may have a chance to be rewarded for their consistency after moving into first-place ties in their respective leagues this week.
Palo Alto (4-1, 11-6) and Los Gatos (4-1, 15-2) now share the SCVAL De Anza Division lead after sharing a common opponent this week. On Tuesday, the Wildcats lost for the first time in an upset to Homestead. On Friday, Palo Alto broke open a close game in the third quarter and rolled to an impressive 81-68 victory over those same Mustangs in the Vikings' gym.
Los Gatos rebounded on Friday with a 59-43 win over Fremont, knocking the Firebirds (3-2, 10-7) into second place. Palo Alto visits Fremont on Wednesday before hosting Los Gatos next Friday in a week that could determine the division title.
Palo Alto certainly is warming to the coming task after producing its highest point total of the season. The Vikings stepped up their defense and rebounding in the third quarter, which led to fastbreak opportunities for Brendan Rider, Max Schmarzo and Davante Adams.
The Vikings also cashed in at the free-throw line when the Mustangs were forced to foul down the stretch. Paly converted 26 of 31 for the game, another high-water mark for the season. Joseph Lin was 6-for-6, Schmarzo was 5-of-6, and Adams made 4-of-6, all in the fourth quarter. Schmarzo led the way with 20 points while Rider had 17, Lin added 16 and Adams had 11.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep continued its preparation for next week's showdown with Harker for the outright league lead by thumping visiting Pinewood, 76-48, on Friday night.
The Gators (5-1, 11-5) won their third straight, since losing to Harker, and has one more tuneup (against Eastside Prep next week) before traveling to face Harker on Friday in a game that most likely will leave the winner alone in first place.
That's because Harker (5-1) was upset by King's Academy on Friday, 42-41, as Mark Petiti canned a three-pointer with 16 seconds to play to lift the Knights to their only lead of the night. They had trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter before rallying, thus allowing Sacred Heart Prep to pull into a first-place tie.
The Gators, meanwhile, pulled away with a 40-20 halftime lead as senior guard Colin Terndrup poured in 19 points, sophomore Will McConnell added 14 and senior Ty Cobb chipped in with 12. Solomone Wolfgramm led the Panthers (3-2, 10-4) with 16 points.
In Hillsborough, Brandon Willhite scored 16 points in his second game back from injury and the Priory boys' basketball team converted 26 free throws and held on for a 55-50 victory over host Crystal Springs in a WBAL game on Friday night. Senior Levente Juhos added 14 points while Benny Kovachy contributed 10 for the Panthers (3-2, 8-7).
In Atherton, Leslie Gray had a season-high 28 points to lead Eastside Prep to a big 62-47 upset of host Menlo. It was arguably the biggest win of the season for the Panthers (1-5, 3-12), who had lost six straight. Titus Van Hook added 15 points for Eastside Prep, which hit 12 of 18 free throws while Menlo was only four of nine.
The defending league champion Knights (2-3, 4-10), meanwhile, fell further off the pace and trail the co-leaders by 2 ½ games. Mac Osborne scored 14 points to lead the Knights, who trailed by six at halftime and 15 after three quarters.
In another SCVAL De Anza Division game, Gunn had a good first period and a decent finish, but Los Alto completely controlled the middle part of the game in a 57-47 win over the host Titans on Friday night.
Gunn (1-4, 8-9) got off to a quick 5-0 lead and led 12-9 after one thanks to the strong play of Matt Redfield, who led all scorers with 15 points. Unfortunately for Gunn, from that point on Los Altos took control of the game as a strong last-minute push in the second period gave the Eagles a 29-18 halftime lead. Los Altos (4-2, 12-5) continued to pull away and pushed its lead to 45-26 early in the fourth before a strong Gunn finish narrowed the final margin.
In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton played without its injured star point guard Jeff Keller (sidelined by a leg cramp), so it relied on a smothering defense to shut down Terra Nova in a game played at the Oracle Arena in Oakland on Friday. The game was held there as a fundraiser for Terra Nova.
While both teams played tenacious defense, the Bears (2-2, 10-8) were relentless as they held Terra Nova to only 12 points in the second half. Nils Gilbertson led the Bears with 13 while Reed Foster and McKinley Mathon combined for another 14.
Back-to-back losses in December evidently helped turn around the season for the Sacred Heart Prep boys' soccer team. Since then, the Gators haven't lost. They won their eighth straight on Friday, a 4-0 blanking of rival Menlo in a West Bay Athletic League match on the Knights' field.
It was the second win over Menlo in just a week, opening the second half of the league season while strengthening the Gators' hold on first place at 8-0 (10-3 overall).
Jack Odell scored two goals, the first assisted by Andrew Liotta and the second by Kyle Scherba, who gave SHP a 2-0 lead at the 60-minute mark on an assist from Robert Ojeda. The Gators took a 1-0 halftime lead when freshman Joseph Bolous tallied an unassisted goal just a minute before halftime. Menlo fell to 3-3-1 in league (5-6-1 overall and now is 14 points behind the Gators in the league race.