For much of Friday’s boys basketball game, it was hard to tell the first-place team from the squad sitting at the bottom of the league. But as good teams often do, Los Altos High made plays when it mattered most and held off Saratoga 55-49.
Trailing by two at intermission after an erratic first half, the host Eagles outscored the Falcons 30-22 the rest of the way by making shots and stops at crucial times.
Los Altos’ big three – Steven Garverick, Joey Malgesini and Daniel Rosenbaum – combined to score 23 points after halftime and proved instrumental in stifling Saratoga’s offense.
“They came up big,” coach Bob McFarlane said of his trio. “They’re competitors and they went after it.”
Garverick finished with a team-high 19 points, Malgesini scored 13 and Rosenbaum added 10 – including the highlight play of the night.
With the Eagles leading 44-42 with 6:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, Rosenbaum faked out his defender and exploded to the rim for a dunk that ignited the nervous home crowd.
This prompted a Saratoga timeout, and the respite seemed to renew Los Altos’ defensive energy. The Eagles held the Falcons scoreless the next three minutes – the visitors missed five shots and committed two turnovers – while Los Altos extended its advantage to 49-42 on Thomas Kelleher’s baseline jumper, set up by Rosenbaum’s drive and dish.
Saratoga wouldn’t go away, however. The Falcons closed the gap to one by scoring six straight points, the final three on Michael Cole’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left. The Eagles struggled all evening to defend the crafty 5-foot-10 guard, who totaled 27 points.
“He hurt us last time, too,” said McFarlane, referring to last month’s 65-54 win at Saratoga. “We were well aware of him. He’s just a good little player.”
Malgesini responded for Los Altos, getting fouled on a successful drive down the middle. His free throw put the Eagles up 52-48 with 57 seconds remaining.
Cole cut the lead to three by splitting a pair of free throws with 26 ticks to go, and that’s as close as the Falcons would get. Garverick converted two foul shots with 16 seconds left – putting Los Altos ahead 54-49 – and Rosenbaum made another free throw with four seconds to play.
The win helped the Eagles’ ease the pain of their first league loss – 55-51 at Palo Alto two days earlier – and fortify their first-place standing. Los Altos improved to 7-1 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division and 15-6 overall.
“That was a tough loss and the guys were a little deflated,” McFarlane said. “This was a good one to get out of our system.”
The Eagles are two games ahead of Milpitas and Paly with four to play. Saratoga sits in last place at 1-8 and is 6-14 overall.
Los Altos is slated to visit rival Mountain View 7 p.m. today.
2013 boys basketball: Los Altos High School vs. Saratoga High School -Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier