Girls' Basketball: Aptos holds off Palo Alto, 75-65, in meeting of section champs

APTOS — Abby Pardue was named one of Aptos High’s captains before the season. 

She fulfilled her duties and then some when the Mariners needed her most on Friday night.

The junior guard buoyed Aptos through a third-quarter slump with a trio of 3-pointers and the rest of the Mariners snapped out of a shooting funk in the final stanza to hold off Palo Alto High for an impressive 75-65 preseason victory. 

“I wasn’t super hot in the first half and then coach gave us a nice talk in the locker room and I came out ready in the third quarter just ready to get after it,” Pardue said. “Got to hit those shots and just get after it.”

Pardue finished with 12 points — all of them coming from beyond the arc — and sophomore Gabby Giuffre recorded a double-double with a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds. 

Six-foot-1 sophomore forward Natalia Ackerman added 20 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three blocks, including an echoing two-handed rejection during the final two minutes to put away the pesky Vikings in a battle of defending Central Coast Section champs. 

Aptos (2-0) has won its first two games to start the year and its last six against CCS competition dating back to last year’s Division III title run — the program’s first since 1983. 

“This is a big win,” Ackerman said of the triumph over last year’s CCS Division I champions. “We’ve tried really hard this year to work and be better than last year.”

And it showed for the majority of the night.

Aptos went into the locker room up 37-27 and was able to keep the Vikings at bay through the third quarter thanks in part to Pardue’s sharp shooting.

Junior forward Ellie Jeffries hit a running layup with a little more than four minutes left in the third to cut the lead to nine but Pardue’s swish from deep on the ensuing possession lifted the advantage back into double digits.

It never dipped below 10 the rest of the way, as junior point guard Hannah Hocom and sophomore twin sisters Madison and Emma Stefanini also got into the mix from 3-point land over the final eight minutes.

Aptos was 12-of-29 from deep on the night.

The three from Pardue, however, proved to be the difference.

“Those were a big deal,” said Aptos head coach Stefan Hocom.

Forward Abbi Saxton added 10 rebounds and four assists and Hocom chipped in 10 points and played tight defense on Palo Alto senior guard Carly Leong, who last year led the Vikings in scoring (16.1 points) during their run to the program’s second straight CCS D-I title and third overall.

Guard Makenna DeGeronimo kept Palo Alto in the game late with a handful of pull-up jumpers but the Aptos defense clamped down when it needed to, making stops down the stretch and increasing the lead to 14 in the fourth quarter.

“They’re a really good team,” Ackerman said. “[Leong] and [DeGeronimo] were going hard the entire time. It was tough to keep up with them.”

Aptos continues its season on Tuesday at home against Gunderson High at 7 p.m. before traveling to San Jose to play CCS D-II champion Presentation on Dec. 8.

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