Varsity girls basketball emerge as CCS Division I runner-up, heading to State playoffs


Dorie Xie

The varsity girls basketball team poses for a team picture as the CCS Division I runner-up.

On Saturday, February 25, the Los Altos High School varsity girls basketball team lost 67–45 to the Evergreen High School Cougars in the California Interscholastic Federation Central Coast Section (CIF-CCS) Division I finals playoff and finished as the runner-up.

Earlier that week, the Eagles won two outstandingly close playoff games against North Salinas High School, 57–56, and Menlo-Atherton High School, 46–40.

So upon entering the arena on Saturday morning, the team was exhausted both physically and mentally.

“It’s not just physically tiring to play, but there’s this emotional impact of playing very close, hard-fought games,” head coach Erik Stuart said. “Coming into the game, our bodies and souls were just depleted.”

The game opened 11–14 in the first quarter as the Cougars enforced pressure and aggression in both their defense and offenses, forcing many turnovers and rebounding strongly, which the Eagles were unable to effectively counter.

By halftime, the Cougars had pushed a great lead, going 21–40.

The remaining two quarters were no different than the first, where the Eagles were tackled by great force from Evergreen, ultimately finishing the game with a 45–67 loss and falling short of becoming the CCS champions.

Nevertheless, making it into the final rounds of the CCS playoffs, much less taking second place in the CCS Division I Championship finals, was nowhere on the team’s radar at the start of their season.

In January 2023, the Eagles suffered a four-game losing streak, where they were 1–4 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCVAL). Even with these difficulties, the team continued working hard to improve both their tactical and mental strategies while still enjoying the process.

“We might bend, but we don’t break, and we didn’t give up,” Stuart said. “From a coaching standpoint, basketball is a game of the little styles and details; it’s about getting just every detail right time after time, and we did.”

“Six weeks ago, we were still treating basketball like a chore,” captain senior Tara Davari said. “It was just practice, game, practice, repeat. But by now, the stakes are high and we very literally play every game like it’s our last, and we’re still having fun.”

“When we started having fun, we started winning,” senior Maggie Byrne said. “And when we started winning, we went from ‘playoffs?’ (with a question mark) to ‘second place, that’s really good’.”

The team is now headed to the CIF State Basketball Championship (NorCal) playoffs, where the top-ranked teams from around the state will compete to become CIF State champions.

“We’ve come back from a pretty low point,” senior Celeste Akhlaghi said. “Throughout the season, we’ve opened ourselves up to change, [and now we’re] stronger than ever. Even though [today] was a loss, we’re still in this together.”

The Eagles will play in the CIF State Basketball Championships Division III bracket starting tomorrow, February 28 in an away game against The Branson School at the College of Marin.