Despite being just two and a half miles apart, Los Altos and St. Francis highs rarely meet in boys basketball. Lancers coach Mike Motil said Saturday that he couldn’t recall facing the Eagles in his six years at the helm.
That was scheduled to change Tuesday (after the Town Crier’s press deadline) in the Central Coast Section Division II semifinals at Santa Clara High.
No. 3 Los Altos was slated to face No. 2 St. Francis for the right to play in Saturday night’s title game. Both teams opened the playoffs with double-digit wins in the quarterfinals.
“It’s another challenge,” Motil said. “A little neighborhood rivalry. Hopefully our guys will be up and ready to play.”
The Lancers (15-12 overall) – who topped No. 7 Los Gatos 57-41 Saturday – are looking to defend the CCS crown they won a year ago. The Eagles (19-7) – coming off a 57-43 win over No. 6 Santa Clara earlier that day – seek their first trip to the final.
Los Altos coach Bob McFarlane acknowledged that his team would have to play better than it did against host Santa Clara (19-7) to advance.
“We didn’t execute very well,” he said. “We haven’t had a game in a week, so there was a little bit of rust. It really showed in guys not executing, mostly offensively, but defensively we had a strategy and it wasn’t being followed, to be honest.”
Points didn’t come easy for the Eagles, who struggled to make shots after a promising start.
Los Altos built an 11-5 lead midway through the first quarter, largely due to point guard Joey Malgesini. The senior standout scored seven of his game-high 23 points during that stretch, making a baseline 3-pointer and two drives down the middle.
The Bruins battled back, tying the game at 11 before forward Steven Garverick drilled a top-of-the-key 3 in the closing seconds of the quarter. The senior was the only other Eagle to finish in double figures, scoring 13 points.
Santa Clara started the second by scoring seven straight points, but Los Altos answered with a 15-2 run over the next four and a half minutes. The spurt included six points from an aggressive Malgesini, whose layin off a steal gave the Eagles a 29-20 edge with 1:13 left in the quarter.
“There are times when things aren’t going (in) and I feel like I need to get to the rim,” Malgesini said. “Maybe sometimes I force that a little too mu
ch, but if I can get a basket going, people maybe tend to focus on me and all of a sudden we start working our offense and getting other people involved. That’s when we really start getting ahead and working together as a team and doing well.”
That’s exactly what happened in the third quarter. The Eagles extended their nine-point halftime lead to 37-23 behind back-to-back baskets from forward Lambie Lanman and a putback by Garverick.
Los Altos entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point advantage and didn’t allow Santa Clara to get any closer. Malgesini scored six points in the period – a pull-up jumper just inside the 3-point line and four free throws.
St. Francis had an easier time with Los Gatos (14-12), scoring the first five points and never relinquishing the lead.
Senior forward Alex Frazier scored six of his 10 points in the first quarter, which ended with the Lancers leading 16-9.
Matt Tripaldi’s back-to-back 3s in the last minute of the first half gave St. Francis a comfortable lead. Both shots were from well above the 3-point line, the last one coming with one second left to put the Lancers ahead 37-18.
“That’s what Matt does – he either comes in and gives us a spark offensively or he doesn’t,” Motil said of the junior. “Last Thursday in practice he made five in a row like that. Then on Friday, he had a tough time making them.”
St. Francis had a tough time making shots in the third quarter – missing its first 12 – but Los Gatos scored only four points during the five-plus minute stretch. Tripaldi broke the ice with a 3-point play of a different kind – fouled on a fastbreak layup – putting St. Francis up 40-22. The shooting guard totaled a team-high 11 points.
The lead ballooned to 20 by the end of the third when 6-foot-9 center Peter Hewitt tipped in a shot at the buzzer.
The Lancers maintained a lead of at least 14 points throughout the fourth.
Panthers win big
As the top seed in CCS Division V, Pinewood did the expected against a team with a 7-17 record: The Panthers pulverized Crystal Springs Uplands in Saturday’s quarterfinals.
Pinewood (21-4) prevailed 57-29 at Alma Heights behind 11 points from Greg Naumann and 10 courtesy of Ryan Brice.
“I thought the team was very focused, poised and played like it,” coach Mani Messy said. “We’ve talked about a new season during these CCS games and looking forward to the opportunity to keep playing.”
The Panthers are slated to return to Alma Heights in Pacifica today to face the fourth-seeded host school (21-6) in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. The winner plays in Friday’s championship game, slated 6 p.m. at Notre Dame De Namur University in Belmont.
CCS boys basketball playoff semifinals: Los Altos High School vs. Santa Clara High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
CCS boys basketball playoff semifinals: Saint Francis High School vs. Los Gatos High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier