The players of the varsity boys basketball team had one thing on their minds as they walked into the school gymnasium for last night’s matchup against the Fremont High School Firebirds: sole possession of first place in the SCVAL El Camino Division. Riding a six-game win streak, the Eagles fought back after a slow start to upend the visiting Firebirds in dramatic fashion, securing their spot at the helm of the league standings. Behind the versatility of junior Joey Malgesini and the heroics of point guard senior Nate Viera, the Eagles stymied the Firebirds’ relentless attack and came out of the contest victorious.Coming into the game, Los Altos and Fremont were both undefeated in league play, with 5-0 records. Los Altos knew it would have to watch out for Fremont’s talented shooters–including C.J. Smith, who has scorched teams for a total of 285 points this year–if it were to win and earn a spot at the top of the El Camino League standings.
“We knew we had to keep Fremont’s scorers in check,” Co-captain senior Nate Becker said. “We’ve been working on our help defense and rotations, which were very important in stopping the ball when guys get blown by. We knew Fremont would be good and we just had to come out with the same intensity we’ve been playing with all year. It would take all four quarters to win this game.”
Fremont’s shooters came out strong and spread the ball around, shooting for 26 points in first quarter. The Eagles responded quickly, and junior Joey Malgesini stepped up to counter Fremont’s offensive barrage. Joey put away three consecutive three pointers, and finished the first quarter with 11 points. This rally wasn’t enough to even the score, however, and the first quarter ended 26-15.
“They’re a very, very good team, and we had to contend with some very tough matchups,” head coach Bob McFarlane said. “Every one of those guys can shoot. Joey–I don’t even know how many three’s he had, but he just could not miss.”
After a first quarter that put the Eagles down by 11 points, Los Altos responded. Sophomore Daniel Rosenbaum came out on fire, and scored a total of 10 points in the second quarter. Center junior Steven Garverick also came up big, scoring 7 points. This offensive might helped the Eagles tie it up 40-40 at the half.
“We attacked their press and took the ball strong to the basket,” Nate said. “We found the hot hand–I think Joey had five threes in a row. We also fed off of the energy of the crowd. It was a great atmosphere to play in.”
However, as the Eagles continued into the third quarter it looked as if Fremont might pull away. Los Altos found itself in a 47-56 hole, and Fremont seemed to be picking up steam as it rallied behind shooter senior Tecson Gacrama. However, sophomore Daniel Rosenbaum wouldn’t have it. After drawing shooting foul and a technical on an attempted three pointer, Daniel was given five shots at the line. With the momentum of the game riding on his shoulders, Daniel drained all five free-throws, putting Los Altos back in the game and silencing the Firebirds.
The Eagles came within a two points of the Firebirds off of a clutch play by Joey Malgesini, but Fremont responded, and by the end of the third quarter, the score was 61-56.
“[Danny’s freethrows] were enormous,” McFarlane said. “He had a really good game, he really contributed well offensively and defensively.”
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles continued to push the pace, gaining momentum as “LA” chants from the Blue Crew reverberated throughout the gym. Nate led a controlled assault on Fremont as Los Altos narrowed the gap, but Fremont remained just out of reach throughout as the clock wound down.
With 30 seconds left on the clock, the Eagles were down 67-71, and needed to score on what looked to be the team’s last opportunity of the game. After working the ball around, Nate dished it to Joey Malgesini, who put away a clutch layup to narrow the score to 69-71. The gym erupted. A victory, which seemed out of the Eagles’ grasps for most of the quarter, was now within reach.
Los Altos fouled Fremont immediately to stop the clock on Fremont’s possession. On the next inbounds, junior Johnny Chen prevented Fremont from putting the ball in play, and forced a turnover. Los Altos immediately fed the ball to Nate, who took off towards the net. With three defenders smothering him, Nate managed to split the lane and bank in a heart-stopping layup, while also drawing a foul. He made the free-throw, and suddenly, Los Altos was up by 1. The crowd was ecstatic. In the final seconds of the game, Los Altos regained possession, and Johnny drew a foul and drained both of his free throws to seal the 74-71 victory.
“One of our goals was to be assertive, and to really attack them because they didn’t have any subs, and we wanted to get fouled,” McFarlane said. “That ended up paying off.”
The victory puts the Eagles at 6-0 in league, and the team now stands at the top of the El Camino Division. Players are looking forward to next week’s Tuesday matchup against Gunn High School, a team Los Altos crushed 62-49 earlier this month.
“It definitely feels great to be number one, all of the hard work and longs hours are paying off, but we’re not satisfied yet,” Nate Becker said. “We know we can beat every team in our league, but we have to keep working everyday. We can’t let it get to our head. We have a target on our back now; we’re not the underdog anymore.”