Sports

Plucky Eagles stun Spartans


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Mahika Gupta takes a shot over Mountain View’s Kyra Palmbush. Gupta scored 18 points and Palmbush had 12.

A rested and ready Los Altos High girls basketball team surged in the second half for a 45-28 win over a Mountain View High squad coming off a double-overtime loss the night before.

Playing less than 24 hours after that tough league loss to Los Gatos, the Spartans failed to match the Eagles’ energy and efficiency – particularly in the third and fourth quarters of Saturday afternoon’s non-league game. The visiting Eagles, who hadn’t played in four days, outscored the Spartans 29-6 after halftime.

“Defensively is where we got after it in the second half,” Los Altos coach Jaclyn Brode said. “Our press and traps were better, and (Mountain View) looked gassed. I think that was the difference maker.”

The offensive output of Eagles post player Mahika Gupta made a difference, too. The junior scored a game-best 18 points, one shy of her season high. Ten of those points came in the decisive third quarter, during which Los Altos outscored Mountain View 17-2.

“It was definitely one of my best games,” said Gupta, who grabbed five rebounds, blocked four shots and made all six of her free throws. “At the beginning of the season, I was rushing too much in the post. So in the last few games I’ve been trying to calm down. So especially in the second half, I just took my time and it really helped me.”

That patience helped her score some low-post baskets against Mountain View center Kyra Palmbush, who at 6-foot-1 stands more than an inch taller than Gupta. And when Palmbush went to the bench with foul trouble, the Spartans (7-8 overall) looked almost helpless against Gupta, whose last bucket came on a jumper from above the foul line with just more than a minute to play.

Palmbush was the lone Mountain View player in double figures, scoring 12 points. The junior was also the sole Spartan to score in the second half.

“She’s done a great job all year, but I feel like we’re relying too much on Kyra,” Mountain View coach Xavier Cook said. “We’re trying to shove the ball to her, and it’s not going to happen.”

Several such ill-advised passes resulted in turnovers by the Spartans, who committed 25 in total Saturday. Mountain View managed to overcome those miscues in the first half to lead 22-16 at the break. But a nine-turnover third quarter doomed the Spartans – whose only basket came on a Palmbush putback with 4:45 left – as their mental and physical fatigue started to show.

“We play well in the first half and the next thing you know we give the game away because our level of energy is just not good,” Cook said. “I think a little of it had to do with our legs after playing double overtime (Friday) night, but I don’t want to make excuses. I think today we just didn’t play with intensity – we didn’t play like it was a rivalry game.”

Los Altos did, eager to upset a team from the upper division of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League that it hadn’t faced in two years.

“We were really hoping for this win – they’re our rivals,” Gupta said. “We didn’t know what to expect from them, because we hadn’t played them this year, but we definitely thought we had a fair chance to win. So we came in with the energy and came in expecting it.”

The Eagles (8-7) also came in shorthanded, missing three rotation players. That meant even more minutes for Gupta and guards Anjali Nand, Rachel Lu, Mira Chiruvolu and Jamie Baum.

Nand scored nine points, including Los Altos’ lone 3-pointer. Fellow senior Lu had six points, all on drives, matching Chiruvolu’s total. Fellow freshman Baum chipped in five points, highlighted by a driving bank shot during which she was fouled in the third.

“The girls stepped up in the second half,” Brode said. “They refocused and played with intensity.”

Both teams return to league play this week. Mountain View is slated to host Cupertino 6:15 p.m. Friday and Los Altos visits Homestead at the same time.

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