For now, the Seaside and Palma high school basketball teams are in it together.
Meanwhile, the North Salinas High girls stand alone.
All three teams won quarterfinal games Saturday and are off to the semifinals, just two wins away from reaching the grand prize — a Central Coast Section title.
A win Tuesday by Palma (16-9) and Seaside (15-3) — Seaside plays Harker (16-9) at Menlo School at 5:30 p.m. and Palma faces top-seed Sacred Heart Prep (18-7) in the second game of the D-IV doubleheader at 7:30 — and they collide Saturday at a site yet to be determined in the championship game.
The last time two Monterey County teams clashed in a title showdown was 2000 when Palma and Carmel met for the D-IV crown.
North Salinas (22-3), seeded No. 2 in D-I, rallied for a 59-56 win over Menlo-Atherton and returns to Gunn High in Palo Alto on Wednesday for a 5:30 game against third-seeded Palo Alto High (12-12).
Palma and Seaside both celebrated D-IV quarterfinal wins at Kaiser Arena in Santa Cruz.
Palma blistered the nets for a barrage of 3-point goals in the third quarter — three from Peter Lucas in a two-minute span — that turned a 24-20 halftime lead into a 46-29 blowout after three quarters.
Menlo School, the defending CCS Division IV champion, staged a mild fourth-quarter rally. But in the end Palma got a measure of revenge after losing to the Knights last year by prevailing in the re-match, 55-45, for its fifth straight win.
Seaside held a four-point advantage after three quarters against Harbor — a lead it held from early in the second quarter to the end of the game. Ronnie Turner scored the first two baskets of the final quarter and Chris Evans, the Gabilan Division’s leading scorer who was held to one field goal by Harbor, shook off a split lip to hit six of eight free throws in the final 70 seconds as the Spartans took a 59-48 decision.
“Our guys really wanted this after getting beat last year,” Palma coach Paul Alioto said. “It wasn’t really about X’s and O’s at halftime. It was more, ‘Hey, they’re the defending champions and they’re going to come out with energy.’ “
Rather it was Palma bursting out of the halftime gates with five 3-point goals in the third quarter. The long-range artillery put Palma on a 19-4 run that built its lead to 43-24 lead late in the third quarter. In addition’s to Lucas’ 3-point bombs, Dalton Dovolis had one and Jack Burlison another.
“For those guys to hit those shots was huge for us,” Alioto said. “It was the ballgame. Our big guys were battling their tails off but they (Menlo) were just a little bit more athletic than us (inside).”
Wyatt Maker, Palma’s 6-6 sophomore center, had eight points and seven rebounds and showed a soft touch on a bank shot early in the fourth quarter that put the Chieftain lead at 48-31.
A rattled Menlo team began to lose its composure during Palma’s third-quarter blitz, which led to a technical foul and some jawing.
“They didn’t get any easy shots off our set defense,” Alioto said. “I think it frustrated them. They were missing shots they normally make.”
Lucas topped Palma with 19 points and Dovolis added 18.
It was the sixth time in eight years Palma has played Menlo in the CCS playoffs. The Chieftains have won four of the six.
Kelvin Garnett has been coaching Seaside for 18 years and rarely talks up his team. But he was heaping the praise of his Spartans after Saturday’s knockout of Harbor — a bruising battle that resulted in a combined 50 free throws.
“This is the closest I’ve seen to a team in a long time,” Garnett said. “They’re close, they trust each other. We have guys who don’t play a whole lot but they get a lot of touches with the ball.”
Seaside’s bench produced 24 points against the Knights with R.J. Johnson topping the reserves with 13 points. Starter Deshawn Irving also had 13. Ronnie Turner had eight points and a dozen rebounds.
The biggest pest for Seaside was the smallest player on the court. Harbor’s 5-9 Deane Rinalde buried seven 3-point field goals — none in the fourth quarter — to finish with 27 points.
“This is the team I really think can do it,” Garnett said. “I really feel confident about this team.”
The Vikings were down 13 early in the game, and with a roster without any seniors, the outlook could have been grim.
Compounding matters was the fact that standout Nicole Hermosillo-Wright fouled out early in the third quarter with 13 points.
Undaunted, the Vikings, cheered on on by a large and vocal following who made the trip to Palo Alto, came charging from behind to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“This team has shown a lot of resilience all year,” said Viking coach Darren Jackson. “I’m proud of all 16 of them. It’s an amazing team.”
But the close game forced Jackson to stay with his front-line players, and it was five juniors and a sophomore who got the job done.
Alyassa Springs led the group with 21 points.
Surprisingly, the Vikings will face a Palo Alto team Wednesday that is younger than they are.
“They have six freshmen on that team,” Jackson said.
Should North High prevail it will meet the winner of Piedmont Hills (20-8) and top-seed Gunn (9-7) Saturday at a place and time to be announced.
Menlo (45): Bouret 1 0-0 3, Roth 2 2-3 6, Tevis 6 0-0 12, Miller 3 4-6 11, Young 2 0-2 4, Nahm 3 3-4 9. Totals 17 9-17 45.
Palma (55): Burlison 1 0-3 2, Chilton 1 0-0 2, Dovolis 6 5-6 18, P. Lucas 7 0-1 19, Maker 4 1-2 9, Regester 1 1-2 3, McMillin 0 1-2 1. Totals 20 7-15 55.
3-point goals: Menlo (3) Bouret 1, Miller. 1. Palma (8) P. Lucas 5, Dovolis 2, Burlison 1.
Total fouls: Menlo 14, Palma 12.
Harbor (48) Rinaldi 9 2-2 27, Whitley 0 2-3 2, Margaeif 2 0-0 4, Bernard 3 5-6 12, Gambam 0 2-4 2. Totals 14 13-19 49.
Seaside (59): Reed 1 0-0 2, Irving 5 2-5 13, Brown 1 0-0 3, Evans 1 7-10 9, Garnett 1 1-2 3, Turner 3 1-4 9, Johnson 4 4-10 13, Boddy 1 0-0 2, Jakebowski 2 0-0 6. Totals 19 15-31 59.
3-point goals: Harbor (8) Rinaldi 7, Bernard 1. Seaside (6) Jakebowski 2, Johnson 1, Brown 1, Irving 1.
Total fouls: Harbor19, Seaside 18
Carlos Anaya of North Monterey County High claimed the 120-pound title at the CCS finals at Independence High in San Jose. Anaya beat Patrick Palomata of Terra Nova, 8-3, in the title bout.
Oscar Cavarrubias of King City reached the finals in the 113-pound division before falling to Alvin Nguyen of Silver Creek, 3-1.
Palma finished 12th behind champions Gilroy High and runner-up Fremont.
Palma had two wrestlers advance to the state meet — Martin Martinez, third at 160 and Dominic Frantangelo, fourth at 145.
The state meet is Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield.
Gonzales High placed 39th out of 75 teams. Vincente Zarate went 2-2 at 195 pounds, Kevin Soriano went 3-2 at 184 and Cornelio Alfaro went 4-3 at 170.
* Salinas 4, North Salinas 2: At Hartnel College, the Cowboys went to 2-1 by beating the Vikings in a non-league game. Josh Olivarria slugged a two-run triple in the first inning and Cole Mallet singled home a run in the third.
Salinas used five pitchers. Ross Scarr tossed 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball and David Romayor threw two scoreless innings while striking out three.