KEZAR PAVILION — Miles Amos did everything he could to keep Stuart Hall’s hopes for a return to the state championship alive, but his Knights fell 56-52 on Thursday night to a Palo Alto team that bent but never broke in the second round of the CIF Division III Tournament.
“I just wish we could’ve gotten our last game in Sacramento instead of here,” Amos said after scoring a game-high 24 points.
Amos was instrumental in bringing the Knights back from a 12-point third quarter deficit, but Stuart Hall (28-6) could never take the lead despite tying it twice in the fourth.
“It’s one of those games where you feel like if you get the lead, you’re going to win it,” head coach Charley Johnson said. “We couldn’t get the lead.”
Amos made his final high school game a memorable one, scoring his team’s final 12 points in the third quarter to cut the lead to 37-35 as the Knights closed the period on an 8-0 run. Jay-Henry Ryan tied it with a finger roll on the first play of the fourth, but Jackson Chryst, committed to play quarterback at Oregon State, put Palo Alto (20-9) right back on top. When Alex Byrd answered to even it up at 39, there was Chryst again. A three on the next possession by Jamir Shepard, another Viking football player, put them up five, and though the fourth-seeded Knights would get the gap down to one again with a basket by sophomore Nigel Burris, they’d never have a chance to take the lead.
Matt Marzano, who led the 12th-seeded Vikings with 16 points, hit a 3-pointer to put Palo Alto up four, and a Chryst tip-in after Paly ran the shot clock down made it 50-43 with under two minutes left. When Marzano made a pair of free throws with 1:02 left to stretch the lead back to nine, all looked lost for The Hall.
The defending NorCal champs wouldn’t go quietly, though. Amos hit a three with 55.3 seconds left, the first one his team had converted all night, and after Anthony Yu missed the front end of a 1-and-1, a Burris three made it a one-possession game with 40.2 left.
Marzano split a pair at the line, and after a Burris 3-pointer rattled out after going halfway down, the Palo Alto junior would split another two free throws. One last 3-pointer by Amos cut it to 54-52, but two free throws by Chryst with 9.6 left sealed the game.
Unlike when the teams met in December, Palo Alto’s football players are fully integrated, with Chryst and Wes Walters starting, plus Shepard — a stellar wide receiver — coming off the bench. The trio was instrumental in getting the Vikings ahead early, with Shepard scoring nine in the first half.
“We let them do whatever they wanted on offense,” Amos said of the first half.
Walters scored six of his eight in a third quarter that was otherwise dominated by Amos.
“Those football guys helped them play more physical than the last time we played them,” Johnson said.
Though the Knights knew they were in for a different Palo Alto team than the one they beat in the Burlingame Lions Club Invitational, the manner in which the Vikings beat them was unexpected, slowing the game down with a 2-3 zone.
“It kinda caught us off guard,” Amos said. “We expected a run-and-gun, man-on-man game, so when they threw it into zone, we had to switch up the rotations.”
It was all part of the plan for first-year head coach Rodney Tention, a former Loyola Marymount head coach who now has the Vikings one win away from a third consecutive NorCal championship appearance.
“They’re a very good transition team, and we had to have two guys back,” he said.
Shepard scored 12 for Palo Alto while Chryst added nine to extend his high school career.
Though Amos’ career at Stuart Hall is over, the Knights won’t be barren next year. Burris, who scored 11 points, will only be a junior, while Ryan and Tomas Wolber will be seniors.
“The future’s bright,” said Amos, a regular at games across the City during the season. “I look forward to coming back and watching them play. They’ve just got to put in the work in the offseason like we did this year.”
Amos leaves Stuart Hall having shared the BCL West title in 2017, winning the Northern California Division IV title last year and winning the BCL West regular season championship and tournament title this year.
“We accomplished history,” he said. “I can’t thank the coaches enough for this.”