Tuesday’s CCS Division I quarterfinal matchup between the No. 3 seed Santa Clara Bruins and No. 6 seed Palo Alto Vikings pitted an “underdog” who had actually beaten the favorite twice during the season. Santa Clara won the De Anza League this season with a 10-2 record, but both those losses came against the Vikings, who finished third in the league at 7-5.
The Bruins came out hungry for revenge in this one. Looking to prevent going 0-3 against their league rival, Santa Clara jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead. Junior Ralph Torda scored eight of the Bruins first 10 points. Early on, it looked like the game might be a route. However, Palo Alto kept coming back with little flurries. While the Vikings consistently trailed by double digits through the first three quarters, they never fell behind by more than 13. Despite trailing by 12 going into the fourth quarter, Palo Alto rallied in the final frame. A huge three pointer with 37.6 seconds remaining pulled them within three points at 43-40.
Santa Clara sophomore Kedawee Teka drained two clutch free throws to push the lead back to 45-40 only for Palo Alto to drain another three pointer with 8.1 seconds left. At 45-43, Bruins senior Fredge Ramos went to the line. After making the first free throw, Ramos missed the second one, but Bruins’ big man Harry Nauci came up with the rebound and the put-back layup to ice the game at 48-43. The Bruins now move on to play No. 2 seed Piedmont Hills in Thursday’s semi-final matchup.
“These guys have been in the gym shooting, texting me ‘I think we should do this; I think we should do this,’ and I sent them film of both our other games [against Palo Alto], areas we need to clean up,” said Bruins Head Coach Tony McGilvery after the win. “So they were into it mentally, they were ready. They came out and Palo Alto only had six points deep into the second quarter.”
Santa Clara’s high-pressure defense kept the Vikings mostly at bay. When Palo Alto did go on their runs, the Bruins came up with some difficult, clutch shots. In that second quarter when the Vikings had cut the deficit to 10-6, senior guard Jiovhani Toledo drilled a three pointer with a defender in his face to lengthen the lead back to seven. Early in the fourth quarter the Vikings cut the 12-point deficit in half and were gaining momentum at 39-33 with just under four minutes to play. That’s when Teka dropped in a tough floater to extend the lead back to eight.
“Kedawee brings a lot to the team, particularly being only a sophomore,” said Torda on the effort from his younger teammate. “He’s been doing that since the beginning of the season and yet also seems to be getting better and better each game.”
“That’s a shot he believes in,” added McGilvery on Teka’s big floater. “And it was huge.”