Once a seven-point halftime lead had been extended to 13 midway through the third quarter, it looked as though Palo Alto was in control of its Northern California Division I regional championship game against James Logan.
It looked as though Paly was headed to the state finals with a chance to win the third state championship in school history.
But then Logan started hitting its shots, went from cold to hot, and everything changed The Colts went on a 28-10 run to take a 52-47 lead with 1:33 left.
Some late heroics by the Vikings -- two foul shots by Max Dorward and a 3-pointer by Spencer Rojahn set the stage for Jack Simison’s floater in the lane, which tied the game at 54-54 with 5.2 seconds left, and sent it to overtime.
But Logan’s momentum was not to be stopped and Paly went down to a 65-61 defeat, much to the disappointment of a large and enthusiastic Palo Alto rooting section at Santa Clara University.
“We had a hard time guarding them around the basket,’’ Palo Alto coach Peter Diepenbrock said. “The story of the game was us giving up too much around the basket.’’
Logan (28-5) had a decided size advantage with 6-foot-9 Edra Luster at center and outrebounded Palo Alto 40-27.
Logan also had an edge in experience. All five of its starters were seniors. Palo Alto started one senior, point guard Miles Tention, along with four juniors.
The other factor, the one seen most vividly on the scoreboard, was the way shots started falling for the Colts from the late third quarter on. They were 9 of 31 from the floor and trailing 37-24 before hitting their last three shots of the third quarter. And then they made seven of their first nine shots in the fourth quarter. There were four 3-pointers made during that stretch of hot shooting.
“They got here for a reason,’’ Diepenbrock said. “They hit two or three 3s and had momentum, then made sure they rode that momentum.’’
Palo Alto (26-5), which shot 50 percent in the first half, cooled off a bit as the game progressed.
“Their defense seemed to affect us,’’ Jared Wulbrun said. “We weren’t expecting that much pressure. That’s something we need to work on for next year, trying to be more calm in that kind of situation. They were getting two, three, four chances in a row. It kind of wore us down.’’
And so Palo Alto’s remarkable post-season road-warrior run of success came to an end. The Vikings were seeded ninth out of 16 teams in the NorCal Division I bracket.
They beat No. 8 Fremont of Oakland, No. 1 Dublin and No. 4 St. Mary’s of Stockton, all on the road, before losing to No. 3 Logan relatively close to home, at Santa Clara.
The Vikings were the lowest seed to reach a NorCal final in any division or gender.
“We knew we had a very good team with a lot of potential,’’ Diepenbrock said. “It was frustrating some of the opportunities we had that we didn’t take advantage of, at Bellarmine, at St. Francis, at M-A. Going into the playoffs we wanted to show how good we could be. We did that, showed a lot of mental toughness. We lost to a very physical, senior-laden James Logan team. Overall, this team showed what it was capable of.’’
Dorward led Paly with 17 points and seven rebounds. Tention scored 16 in his last high school game.
“I’m most definitely going to miss these guys,’’ Tention said. “It was a family.’’