Sports

Local notebook: Catching up with the Gunn slingers

 

A couple of Gunn grads are enjoying success at the next level.

Alex Gil-Fernandez and Chris Russell were teammates on the excellent Gunn boys basketball team that went 21-4 the 2014-15 season.


“Those guys lived in the gym,’’ Gunn coach Brandynn Williams said. “I miss them. That was the best team I’ve had at Gunn. They fed off each other’s energy. They were always in the gym together.’’

Now they’re teammates again at Foothill College. Last weekend the pair of former Titans led the Owls to the championship of the West Valley Tournament. Gil-Fernandez, who scored 35 points in a 65-63 win over Ohlone in the championship game, was named tournament MVP. Russell was also named to the all-tournament team.

Gil-Fernandez is averaging 15.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He is shooting 52.8 percent from the floor and 72 percent from the foul line. The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder did most of his damage from 15 feet in at Gunn, and still operates with great effectiveness in that area of the court. But knowing he needs to improve his 3-point shot to better his landing destination at the next level, he is making significant improvement, shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range this season.

“He would be a fantastic pickup,’’ Foothill coach Matt Stanley said. “The guy’s a winner.’’

Stanley characterizes the 6-5, 175-pound Russell as his best 3-point shooter. Russell got off to a slow start this season but has come on strong of late. He had a season-high 17 points in the West Valley semifinals against Diablo Valley, knocking down 4 of 6 shots from behind the 3-point arc.

“This is the fifth year we’ve been on the same team,’’ Russell said of himself and Gil-Fernandez. “We love basketball. We’ve definitely gotten really close as teammates and friends.’’

From Panther to Triton

Brianna Claros hit a 10-foot floater at the buzzer to give Pinewood a 53-52 win Saturday in Santa Rosa against Cardinal Newman, the team that ended Pinewood’s season last March in the Northern California Open Division semifinals.

“It kind of had a NorCal feel to it,’’ Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler said. “We came away with the win despite not playing our best.’’

Claros, a senior point guard, committed to UC San Diego and will become the fourth Pinewood player to attend the school. Rachel Marty, Miranda Seto (now an assistant coach at Pinewood) and Marissa Hing were the previous Panthers at UCSD, which is coached by Heidi VanDerveer.

The UCSD women’s basketball program will move from NCAA Division II to Division I and join the Big West Conference beginning in the 2020-21 school year.

Claros is averaging 9.3 points and a team-high 3.8 assists per game. She has 30 assists in contrast to 18 turnovers (1.67-1 ratio) so far this season.

Scheppler was asked in what way Claros needs to improve in order to succeed at the college level.

“The skills she’s developed and her tactical knowledge is at a high level,’’ Scheppler said. “She needs to get tougher and rise to the level of intensity she will encounter. There's a big difference between high school and the college game.’’

Vikings football not so lonely

For quite a while Palo Alto High had the distinction of being the only Central Coast Section team to win a state football championship. The Vikings did it in 2010.

Last weekend three other CCS teams joined Paly: Serra, St. Francis and Milpitas.

Of course, it was just a matter of time until that happened once the CIF expanded the state playoffs to 13 divisions and started crowning 13 state champions three years ago.

This year’s games were characterized for the most part by a whole lot of scoring. Serra won 38-14 in its state final after a 76-43 victory in the NorCal game. Milpitas won 45-41. St. Francis won a comparatively low-scoring contest, 22-13.

Four of five CCS entrants advanced to a championship game with Half Moon Bay falling just short of a title and a 15-0 season with a 44-42 loss.

And much to the contrary of expectations of domination by teams from Southern California, teams from the less populated North went 8-5.

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