A high Palominos turnover rate and clutch free throws by the Tigers keep the sharp-shooting Palo Alto team at bay.
By Ryan A. Flournoy
The St. Philip’s Tigers edged out the Palo Alto Palominos 77-73 in a scoring frenzy during the opening night of the men’s basketball season Wednesday.
Spectators who looked away for too long may have missed the only dunk of the game by St. Philip’s center Taylor McAllister or a deep 3-pointer from Palo Alto’s shooting guard Nathan Martinez.
The onslaught of high scoring shed light on the lack of defense and turnovers on both sides of the ball.
This is not unusual as the season just started and each team must learn to play as one, said seven-year Tigers coach Jimmy Alcala.
“The first game’s always interesting because you want to get them to playing together,” Alcala said.
“It’s important because it puts the team in sync and you know what you got to work on.”
Alcala, who’s tasked with all new players, has a winning record at the school — “we normally win 75 percent of our games” — and values the players’ education and opportunity to play at the collegiate level.
“It allows them two things, one for student athletes to play at the next level if they didn’t get selected, and it allows those who are good players to get a good education and still play basketball.”
Palo Alto is experiencing its own growing pains, said first-year coach Butch Cook.
“This game will be a good test to see where the team stands,” Cook said.
Shortly after winning the tip-off, St. Philip’s trailed by 3 only to answer back with a 3-point shot of their own.
Two more quick 3-pointers from each team followed, and within the first two minutes the pace of the game was set, and remained constant for the rest of the night.
Back and forth the teams continued to unload their arsenal of offensive attacks.
St. Philip’s earned their points by driving the ball into the paint, looking for open lanes and converting shots from fouls at the free-throw line.
For the home team, it was clutch 3-point point shooting throughout the game, good ball movement and cuts to the basket that helped open clear shots for both the shooting guards and the players down low beneath the basket.
At half time, Palo Alto trailed 37-39.
The largest lead of the half was only 4 points by St. Philip’s.
Two standout players for St. Philip’s in the first half were shooting guard Jordan Terrell, No. 25, and power forward Enrique Salinas, No. 5, with a combined 20 points.
Spotlight players for Palo Alto in the first half were shooting guards Nathan Martinez, No. 4, with 12 points and Nathan Aguado, No. 2, with 7 points.
The exchange of offensive assaults continued for both teams into the second half.
St. Philip’s continued drives to the basket resulted in early foul trouble for Palo Alto.
Able to get to the foul line often, St. Philip’s scored 26 of its total 77 points from free throws compared to Palo Alto’s 12.
Turnovers were also an issue for both teams, proving costly for Palo Alto when the opposing team scored from their mistake.
Despite the height advantage the Tigers had and the free-throw discrepancy, the Palominos remained within striking distance of victory entering the final minute of the game with a score of 73-73.
In the final moments St. Philip’s was able to score once and fouled on another possession to extend the lead to 76.
Calling for a timeout, Cook drew up a double screen to free up his best shooter of the night, Nathan Martinez, for an open 3-point shot attempt to tie the game.
With 38 seconds left on the clock the ball was inbounded into the hands of Martinez, who then dribbled around two defenders, set his feet, took aim and fired his shot.
The ball soared through the air toward the rim like any other of his baskets, except this one arrived inches off the mark bouncing in and out of the rim, missing the shot and what would be the last opportunity to stay in the game.
The clock continued to wind down as St. Philip’s gained control of the ball and drove down the court only to be fouled once again.
The most valuable players were Terrell and McAllister, both who finished with 16 points each, along with Wayna Ward who finished with 13 points to lead the Tigers to victory.
“We had a lot of pointless turnovers,” said Nathan Martinez of Palo Alto who finished with 37 points, the most individual points of both teams. “For the next game we need to work on our defense and staying in front of the man we are guarding.”
“I have nothing bad to say about our team’s effort; it was awesome.” Cook said.
“When you got kids that play that hard, that’s all you need, it’s all you want.”
Palo Alto’s next game is 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at Our Lady of the Lake University.
St. Philip’s next game is 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at St. Edward’s University.