The Los Altos High boys basketball team sustained some bumps and bruises in its fall from first place Friday, outmuscled by a bigger Palo Alto squad that now stands alone atop the SCVAL De Anza Division. The visiting Vikings, who never trailed, prevailed 64-52.
“They have some big guys, and then they use it to their advantage at times and then it got to us,” said junior Brock Susko, whose 20 points paced the Eagles. “So we just have to play tougher.”
Los Altos coach Trevor Naas agreed that Paly – the aggressor from the start – showed more grit.
“I thought they were a little bit tougher than us on both ends of the floor tonight and knocked down some shots,” he said.
A lot of those were high-percentage shots; the Vikings scored 24 points in the paint. That included eight from the tallest player on the court – 6-foot-6 center Ryan Purpur – who totaled 14 points.
Paly also outperformed the Eagles from the foul line. The Vikings sank 16 of their 19 free throws; Los Altos was 10 of 22.
“That definitely hurt us,” said Naas, whose team dropped to 5-1 in league and 16-2 overall.
Despite all that, Los Altos made a late run that reinvigorated a home crowd drowned out by the throng of raucous Paly fans for most of the night.
Down 17 points a minute into the fourth quarter, the Eagles clawed their way back into the game with a 14-4 spurt ignited by Susko’s pull-up jumper. Andrew Reilly made a drive and baseline 3-pointer during the run and Jake Skaggs chipped in four points, with his free throw putting the score at 57-50 with 2:09 left. The sophomores each finished with 12 points.
Finding fourth-quarter success with its full-court press, Los Altos then forced the Vikings (6-0 league, 14-4 overall) into their sixth turnover of the period. The steal led to a 3-point try by Susko that missed the mark. It proved to be the Eagles’ last shot at further closing the gap. Paly’s Matthew Marzano’s layin off a steal with 1:06 to go put his team up nine.
“I’m definitely proud of our guys for the fight to come back,” Naas said. “... I think that the full-court pressure bothered (Paly) a little bit, but Marzano stepped up and made a great play – and he made a lot of them throughout the night.”
After another errant 3-point shot, the Eagles had no choice but to foul to stop the clock, and Marzano drained both free throws to make it 61-50 with 50 seconds remaining. The senior guard finished with a team-high 18 points.
Both teams played the game without key starters, with Los Altos missing Dom D’Augusta. The junior bruised his elbow and wrist bones on a hard fall to the floor after a dunk Jan. 10 against Milpitas.
“Dom’s hurt – that definitely hurt us,” Susko said. “We have to do our best to just persevere through that, though.”
Susko, who scored nine of his team’s 14 points in the second quarter, is eager to put Friday’s game behind him and focus on the six league games left – including the Feb. 14 rematch with Paly.
“It’s a huge game for us, especially after they come to our home court and beat us,” he said. “We’ll definitely be motivated at practice tomorrow to go get better.”
Those are the kind of words Naas wanted to hear from one of his captains.
“I’m glad that’s where his head’s at,” the coach said. “And that’s where all their heads should be at right now.”