A fourth-quarter comeback Saturday by Palo Alto slammed the brakes on the Mountain View High girls basketball team’s season.
The third-seeded Vikings beat the No. 6 Spartans 57-54 Saturday in the Central Coast Section Division I quarterfinals at Gunn.
The season-ending loss came on the heels of Mountain View’s 62-54 home win over Salinas in the second round of the playoffs. The Spartans finished 12-12 overall.
Mountain View – which split its two Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division games with Paly (13-12) – opened the fourth quarter with an eight-point edge. That lead disappeared in the final four minutes.
Spartans head coach Judy Auclair credited Paly’s clampdown defense – especially in the post – as a key to her team’s fourth-quarter demise.
“We were getting banged a little inside so, you know, there should’ve been maybe a few more calls here or there,” said Auclair, whose team led the Vikings 40-32 entering the fourth. “That’s the way it goes. (Paly) is strong, tough and they’re young. They had nothing to lose.”
Juniors Jayme Hughes and Karen Kauffman paced the Spartans with 15 points each, while Paly freshman Lauren Koyama led all scorers with 22 points – including six 3-pointers.
The Vikings managed to overcome a scoreless second quarter to beat Mountain View, which they finished just ahead of in league.
“We just missed our shots. I thought we had good shots,” Paly head coach Scott Peters said of his team’s woes in a first half that ended with the Spartans ahead 26-16. “I think the biggest thing is, we let the pressure of the game affect us a little bit instead of playing loose.”
Despite holding as much as a 10-point lead through three quarters, Mountain View couldn’t stop a surging Paly offense that rattled off a 14-4 scoring run in four-plus minutes to start the final quarter. Koyama capped the run, giving Paly its first lead at 46-44 after sinking a left-corner three with 3:52 to go.
Mountain View, meanwhile, cobbled together just four points – all courtesy of Hughes. The Spartans made just one of their four shots in the period, getting half their points on free throws.
Mountain View committed four turnovers during Paly’s run.
“We couldn’t get shots off, especially our better shooters – Karen (Kauffman) and Jayme Hughes. And we fell down on defense in the post,” said Auclair, whose team regained the lead – albeit a short-lived one – just once when Kauffman drained a three from the left corner at 2:53 for a 49-48 advantage.
Foul trouble plagued the Spartans as well down the stretch. The team committed its seventh foul with 4:50 to play, putting Paly in the bonus.
Koyama later broke a 51-all tie with a pair of free throws after the Spartans committed their 10th team foul with 49 seconds left. The Vikings clung to their lead the rest of the way, adding double-bonus free throws from sophomore Madison Atwater with 27 and 11 seconds left, respectively.
Hughes added a layup with 12 seconds left to complete the Spartans’ scoring.