photo: Jim Gensheimer/BANG
Palo Alto High finished 26-5 on the season, 11-1 in the Santa Clara Valley DeAnza League while grabbing a CCS D1 championship with a 66-63 victory over Los Gatos on March 4.
Then came three more wins, 59-56 versus Fremont, 83-80 over Dublin and 75-63 against St. Mary's, before falling 65-61 in overtime to eventual Nor Cal champion James Logan.
The Vikings played well collectively as any Peter Diepenbrock-coached team presents but nobody performed better during the last part of the season than 6-foot-4 Max Dorward, a 2018 prospect. In the last-second defeat of Los Gatos, he totaled 14 points, 10 boards, four assists. Then came four more strong lines of 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, 22 points plus five boards, 27 and five, followed by 17 points and seven rebounds. Call it clutch production in the times when it was needed the most.
"Max is a superior athletic, an all-around athlete who played varsity as a freshman and each year has become more and more skilled," Diepenbrock said. "He's team-oriented and an unselfish teammate with a lot of leadership qualities."
It was in that matchup with Los Gatos that Dorward experienced basketball nirvana of sorts. "My best basketball moment was definitely this year when we won CCS as D1 champs. I was under the basket when the game winner went in (a Spencer Rojahn three-point jumper) and there was a midcourt dogpile right after.
Asked to detail his best skills, Dorward offered "my midrange jumper, the ability to get to the basket and to get easy shots in transition by running and getting down the floor." He sees himself stationed as a small forward or shooting guard at the next level ""because I am lanky and can use that to my advantage."
Dorward is playing with the Tyler Johnson Elite (TJE) team this spring.
All over the sports spectrum in his younger days, Dorward participated in soccer, baseball, basketball and football. "Baseball became too time-consuming and I enjoy basketball a lot more than football." During his time on the gridiron, he played quarterback, wide receiver and in the defensive backfield.
Rather than a sibling rivalry, "My brother Lukas inspires me." Three years older, "he worked a lot on his game but then got injured. Now he goes to school and has a job -- he works hard at everything he does."
Talking about his hoops transformation from his first year of high school to the present, he sees aggression as something added to his repertoire. "I was new to high school, surrounded by a bunch of new players and I was the only freshman on varsity. I wasn't myself early in the season but then I became more confident."
Having enjoyed his AP chemistry class, Dorward is thinking of majoring in something chemistry related or science related.
He is looking for greater exposure through playing on his travel team and then another successful season with the Vikings as Miles Tention's many contributions will need replacing but there's Dorward and a number of other seniors ready to take another step up.