The Los Altos High boys basketball team endured one of those shooting nights that can put an end to a playoff run – and it did last week in the Central Coast Section Division II semifinals.
Jumpers rolled off the rim with regularity and several drives spun around the cylinder and out. It was too much to overcome against defending champ St. Francis, which escaped with a 49-47 win March 4 at Santa Clara High.
Although the shots didn’t go down, the Eagles never gave up. They kept the game close until the end, nearly tying it in the waning seconds on a shot by forward Steven Garverick.
With his team down two after St. Francis’ Brian Garrett split a pair of free throws with 14 seconds to play, Garverick drove to the middle of the key and used a spin move to fire off a shot that rolled out.
Alex Frazier secured the rebound for the Lancers and quickly passed it to Giuseppe Benedetti, who was fouled immediately. He missed the ensuing free throw, but the 1.5 seconds left didn’t leave Los Altos enough time to take another shot.
“Garv did a good job,” coach Bob McFarlane said of the game-tying attempt by his senior, who totaled seven points. “He did what he was supposed to do – get to the rim. He didn’t get the shot and didn’t get the foul, so what are you going to do?”
While the Eagles didn’t do a lot on offense – 30 percent shooting led to their fourth-lowest scoring game of the season – they showed plenty of resilience, composure and desire.
“We had a lot of effort,” said forward Daniel Rosenbaum, who led third-seeded Los Altos with 15 points. “That was a very well-played game by our team.”
McFarlane – who last year guided the Eagles to their first trip to the semifinals – agreed.
“Our guys played fantastic,” he said. “We fought back, and I’m really proud of the way we finished that game. I thought we were going to have it there for a moment.”
The Eagles never led, though they didn’t allow No. 2 St. Francis to build more than an eight-point advantage. Los Altos answered every run with one of its own, twice cutting the deficit to a single point in the second half.
“Today was going to be a tough matchup and we knew it,” Lancers coach Mike Motil said. “Give Los Altos credit – they fought, and we knew it would be that way. They played a great game.”
Los Altos trailed by four at halftime and St. Francis doubled that advantage 90 seconds into the third quarter on a putback by Joe Mihanovic and a fastbreak layin from Noah Stapes.
The Eagles countered with a 9-2 spurt featuring six points from guard Joey Malgesini (14 points), who drained a pair of jumpers and two free throws. Rosenbaum capped the run with a driving bank shot. With their advantage sliced to a point, St. Francis called time out and – after the teams traded misses – scored on Frazier’s baseline drive in the closing seconds of the quarter to go up 35-32.
That lead quickly grew to eight, thanks to back-to-back buckets by guard Garrett (game-high 23 points). He swished a pull-up jumper from just inside the key and buried a deep 3 from the right wing on the Lancers’ second possession of the fourth.
Los Altos roared back once again. The Eagles scored six straight points, all of which involved Rosenbaum. He assisted on the first basket – zipping a low-post pass to an open Johnny Chen (nine points) for a layin – and followed a pair of free throws by scoring at the rim after faking a shot from the top of the key. This whittled the Lancers’ lead to 40-38 with 4:25 remaining.
The teams countered one another on the scoreboard for the next four minutes, a stretch highlighted by two drives from Malgesini and a one-handed putback by St. Francis guard Benedetti.
After Garrett knocked down a pair of free throws, Rosenbaum drilled a 3-pointer from the right side to narrow the gap to 48-47 with 16 seconds left.
“I really didn’t think about that shot,” the junior said. “As soon as I saw the defender off me, I just kind of shot it.”
That marked only the second successful trey by the Eagles, who missed nine of their attempts.
Los Altos’ best shooting came from the foul line, where it made 17 of 19 tries. Rosenbaum went 8-for-8 from the stripe.
While the season ended in disappointment for the Eagles, it will go down as one of the best in school history. Los Altos finished 19-8 and won the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division.
“It’s hard to fathom that it’s over right now,” McFarlane said. “I really thought we were going to take this one. But I’m pleased – we had a hell of a season, and it’s just hard to process that it’s over.”