The third time really is the charm. Boys basketball rewrote the school’s record books tonight, triumphing over Santa Clara High School in CCS semifinals in no uncertain terms. Los Altos took the game 59-47, all on the Bruin’s home court.
Los Altos and Santa Clara played to a near draw in the first, with the Eagles retaining a small lead throughout. A Bruin buzzer-beater tightened up the deficit, but Los Altos ended the first quarter with a 15-12 lead.
The Eagles broke it open from the opening buzzer of the second, and began to put together what would develop to become a monstrous quarter. Both teams played with a renewed sense of urgency, producing a blistering brand of play, but Los Altos, relentless on the rebound and led by co-captain senior Daniel Rosenbaum, pulled ahead to a double-digit lead. Los Altos led 24-14 halfway through the quarter and never looked back. Los Altos ran away with a hard-hitting offense and an airtight defense, taking the quarter in stride and entering halftime with a definitive 15 point lead (33-18).
“We shot the ball really well,” head coach Bob McFarlane said. “I feel like we executed what we needed to. We had a couple breakdowns there, but not enough that it cost us the game. We did a lot of things right: [we] shared the ball well, played selfless basketball, defended much better than we have [than in the] middle of the season. We’ve improved a lot in our defense, and [we] rebounded well.”
The Bruins gained some traction in the early stages of the third, drawing fouls and finally notching several shots to put together an eight-point run, but Los Altos would have none of it. A number of players stepped up, extinguishing Santa Clara’s short-lived comeback. A momentum-shifting three-pointer from senior Dylan Zorn put an end to the Bruins’ run and tipped the scales back in the Eagles’ favor. Sophomore Ahmad Washington contributed two points shortly after to bring the score to 45-31. Senior Thomas Kelleher hit a three-pointer minutes later, the final nail in the coffin. Daniel continued to light up the scoreboard throughout; grabbing rebounds, making layups and drawing fouls.
“[Our plan was] defense,” senior Kyle Cumagun said. “Our plan was to stop and transition because [Santa Clara] really likes to attack. On offense, we moved the ball really well and really just hit our shots today.”
Contributions from a variety of players poured in during the second half of the game–the Bruins had little response to the Eagles’ onslaught.
“Everybody stepped up… we had great bench players come in today,” Daniel said. “Kyle Cumagun stepped up, Nolan Brennan stepped up, Dylan’s three when they were making their run was huge: it was really a team win.
Los Altos refused to cede points for much of the remainder of the game, only letting up towards the end of the game to give players on the bench some playing time. Blue Crew and the rest of the Los Altos crowd stood up for the team and erupted in cheers in the dying seconds of the game. 59-47. The orange numbers that emblazoned across the scoreboard at the end of the game represented the culmination of three consecutive years’ effort: the Eagles have been to CCS semifinals before, only to see their spot in CCS finals slip through their fingers, by a margin of two points. Twice–once against Willow Glen two years ago and again against St. Francis last year. The win now is just that much sweeter.
“We’ve gone through some ups and downs this season,” co-captain senior Sami Nassif said. “We went through the fire, we’ve come together, and we’re playing really strongly as a team. To make school history, to make it this far, play in the CCS finals, that’s enormous. We’re pumped. It’s really special.”
The Eagles now advance to CCS finals for the first time in school history, where they will play number one seed Leland, whom they fell to early in the season in December. In the face of what is guaranteed to be stiff competition, the sentiment among the team is one of hunger, determination and desire for redemption.
“Leland is the challenge I want,” McFarlane said. “We have to come to work the next few days… We have to not have any down moments in practice, we want to do everything we can to get ready… We want the banner in the gym. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re here for. I’m going to do everything, I’m sure I won’t sleep for the next three days… We’re going to dump it all on the floor and let the chips fall.”
The team’s players reiterated McFarlane’s comments.
“We’re fired up… tomorrow, we’re going back to work,” Thomas said. “We want to win it, that takes work and we’re ready to put that in.”
Leland defeated Los Gatos 54-43 earlier today, punching in its ticket to CCS finals. Los Altos and the Chargers will face off on Saturday, March 7 in CCS finals at a time and neutral location that is to be decided.