In recent years, however, Mitty has ended Palo Alto's season — each time in the semifinals (2011, '10 and '07). Those losses prevented the Vikings from reaching the Northern California playoffs.
That will not happen this season, even if the teams meet again.
Thanks to its enrollment of 1,907 students, Palo Alto for the first time has been elevated from the CCS Division II playoffs to Division I — thus escaping the Division II Monarchs.
Thanks to the new CIF and CCS Open Divisions, however, Paly and Mitty could meet once again. However, all the teams selected for the CCS Open Division will automatically qualify for NorCals — either in the Open Division or their former section division.
Thus, Palo Alto has two chances to reach the NorCal playoffs this season for the first time since Lin-led 2006, and one of the opportunities is guaranteed.
To reach the CCS Open Division, all Palo Alto has to do is win the SCVAL De Anza Division. That accomplished, the Vikings are a lock for NorCals.
"I like that you are rewarded for winning league and going to NorCals," said Paly coach Adam Sax. "I really like that (the) Open Division is a tournament and not one and done!"
Thanks to Tuesday's 59-43 victory at second-place Saratoga on Tuesday night, Palo Alto will take an 8-0 league record, 18-1 overall mark and 16-game win streak into Friday's home game against Homestead at 7:45 p.m.
The 18-1 mark equals the third best (with 2006) in Paly history after 19 games. Only the 1993 team that finished 31-0 and the 1929 squad (19-0) were better.
Equally important, however, the Vikings have a two-game lead over the Falcons (6-2) with four to play.
Based on the MaxPreps computer rankings, Palo Alto appears a shoe-in to play in the CCS Open Division with Mitty, Serra, Bellarmine, Sacred Heart Cathedral, El Camino, Piedmont Hills and Half Moon Bay.
"It is going to be tough to play WCAL teams in the first round of the Open," said Sax.
But, unlike in previous years, a loss before the finals will not eliminate Palo Alto.
If the Vikings lose before the finals, they will advance to the NorCal Division I playoffs. A CIF selection committee will select eight boys' teams and eight girls for the NorCal Open Division playoffs.
Among the criteria to be selected includes: having won two straight section titles or qualified for NorCals three of the past four years; made the NorCal finals the previous season; or been ranked in the top 10 of Cal Hi Sports, MaxPreps or CalPreps.com rankings the past two seasons.
Palo Alto fits none of those and thus will play on in Division I for NorCals.
That, of course, means no Mitty standing in the way. Instead, it could be Piedmont Hills, Deer Valley or De La Salle providing a roadblock to the state finals.
"I like the system," said Sax. "It seems to have more parity."
For the girls, it's likely Eastside Prep and Pinewood could be included in the CCS Open Division. But, both teams are expected to return to Division V for their run at NorCal honors.
Palo Alto, meanwhile, continued one of the best seasons in school history as junior Keller Chryst came up with season highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds. Senior Aubrey Dawkins added 19 points for the Vikings.
Eilon Tzur added nine points for the Vikings. He and Chryst combined for 15 points in the third period to end any Saratoga comeback hopes.
Chryst won't have the opportunity to add to his effort as he'll miss Friday's home game against Homestead at 7:45 p.m. Instead, he'll be in New Orleans attending the Super Bowl in New Orleans. His father, Geep, is the quarterbacks coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
In the West Bay Athletic League, Ricky Galliani poured in 22 points as Sacred Heart Prep remained tied for first place with a 65-42 victory over host King's Academy on Tuesday.
Corbin Koch added 20 points for the Gators (8-1, 12-7), who will host co-leader Menlo School on Friday (7:30 p.m.) to determine sole possession of first place. Menlo (7-1, 11-7) was in attendance after its game with Priory was postponed to next week.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn battled visiting Los Altos before finally dropping a 51-49 decision. The Titans (1-7, 4-14) held a 29-26 halftime lead before the Eagles pulled ahead in the third period. Chris Russell tallied 16 points for Gunn while teammate Max Girod added a season-high 15.
Eastside Prep and Pinewood remain tied for first place in the WBAL Foothill Division after each team posted victories this week.
Pinewood won its second game in as many days on Wednesday with a 50-42 win over visiting Menlo School. The Panthers (6-1, 16-4) overcame an outstanding individual effort by Menlo's Drew Edelman (16 points, 19 rebounds) and their own horrendous shooting (16 of 60 for 27 percent) to win their third straight.
Marissa Hing led Pinewood with 16 points while Gabi Bade added 10 points and freshman Chloe Eackles contributed nine points and eight rebounds. Maddy Price finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Menlo (4-3, 14-7).
On Tuesday, Pinewood began a busy four-game week with a 61-43 win over host Mercy-San Francisco. Hing had 16 points while Eackles had 11 points nine rebounds, five steals and five assists.
Eastside Prep, meanwhile, overcame a three-point first-quarter deficit and rolled to a 48-28 victory over visiting Sacred Heart Prep. Hashima Carothers tallied 16 points and Alexus Simon added 12 to rally the Panthers (6-1, 15-5), who held the Gators (3-4, 15-6) to single-digit scoring each quarter.
Elsewhere this week:
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Gunn remained a game back of first place following a 43-39 victory over visiting Milpitas on Wednesday. The Titans (5-2, 12-5) were led by junior guard Zoe Zwerling's 23 points while sophomore Meghan Mahoney added 13.
In Saratoga, Palo Alto dropped back in the race after falling to the host Falcons, 53-46. The Vikings (4-3, 8-10) suffered their second straight loss. Paly and Saratoga were tied at at 32 heading into the final quarter before the Falcons erupted for 21 points. Coco Lovely paced Paly with 14 points, draining a trio of three-pointers.
The Vikings did not handle Saratoga's pressing defense well and turned the ball over 16 times in the first half. Paly did a better job in the second half, beating the fullcourt pressure to get back in the game.
In the PAL South Division, host Menlo-Atherton fell two games off the pace following a 53-49 loss to Burlingame (7-1). The Bears (6-2, 10-10) clung to a 30-29 halftime lead before being outscored 10-5 in the crucial third period. Emma Heath tossed in 18 points and Sarah Howell added 10 for M-A.
A day earlier, Menlo-Atherton overcame a three-point first-quarter deficit and pulled away for a 43-36 victory over visiting San Mateo. The Bears got 10 points each from Heath and Naomi Baer.
Before facing Pinewood, Menlo overcame a hot-shooting Castilleja team for a 62-52 victory on Tuesday. The visiting Gators made a school-record six 3-pointers in the first half and grabbed a 30-25 lead.
Menlo's strength and size inside prevailed in the second half with Edelman finishing with 17 points and nine rebounds while Olivia Pellarin added 13 points. Jasmin Williams contributed 11 points and seven assists for the Knights while Paige Vermeer scored a career-high 25 points for the Gators (0-7, 3-17).
Vermeer also had nine rebounds and four steals while teammate Yasmeen Afifi had five blocks and eight rebounds in the game, which featured six ties and nine lead changes.
This story contains 1301 words.
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