As soon as the Gunn High girls basketball team entered the Los Altos High gym, it was clear the Eagles had a distinct advantage in Friday night’s SCVAL El Camino Division opener. The visitors dressed just five players – seven fewer than Los Altos.
Still, Eagles coach Jaclyn Brode said she had an uneasy feeling about the game; would her team take the Titans lightly?
“We definitely had that feeling at the beginning,” senior center Mahika Gupta said. “I think a lot of us were really confused when we saw only five players on the court. We had to remind ourselves to not get overconfident and underestimate them, and to come out with the same intensity that we would against any team.”
Los Altos played with that intensity for long enough stretches to shoot past Gunn 55-23. The Eagles raced to a 22-2 lead in the first quarter and outscored the Titans 25-5 in the third.
The two other quarters weren’t pretty – Los Altos (9-3 overall) scored four points in each and totaled 13 turnovers – but undermanned Gunn (2-10) wasn’t able to take advantage. The Titans struggled to take care of the ball from the start, committing 11 of their 28 turnovers in the first quarter.
“It was really weird playing against only five girls, and I don’t know if we were always playing together,” sophomore guard Aaliyah McPherson said. “There are things we can improve on defensively, and we were kind of sloppy on offense. We need to work on that a little more.”
McPherson paced the Eagles with 14 points off the bench – nine of which came in the opening quarter. In a span of just less than 2 1/2 minutes, she nailed a 3-pointer from the right side, banked in a drive down the middle and made a scoop layup and a floater. This helped Los Altos build a 20-2 lead, which it added to with 2 ticks left in the quarter when Jamie Baum made a layin off an inbound pass from Evelyn Baher-Murphy.
That momentum didn’t carry into the second quarter, however, as the Eagles missed their first seven shots. Their first make came with 2:51 to go on a low-post shot from Gupta, who totaled eight points.
Los Altos only outscored Gunn 4-3 in what Brode called “kind of a trash quarter by us.”
Gupta had an explanation for that.
“Our energy started dropping off and we started making lazy passes and getting complacent,” she said. “That’s something we need to work on in these kind of situations.”
The Eagles rebounded in the third, though, setting a new season-high for points in a quarter with 25. Los Altos connected on six of its first seven shots. After a low-post basket and mid-range jumper by Gupta, Annabel Flint and McPherson buried back-to-back 3s. Flint then made a jumper from just inside the arc, and Nicole Player completed a three-point play (drive and free throw).
Suddenly, Los Altos was up 41-10 with 3:42 left in the quarter.
“We started attacking the basket more and hunkering down on defense,” Brode said of her team’s third-quarter surge. “We also did a lot better job getting rebounds.”
Los Altos is slated to visit Homestead 7 p.m. today.