The Los Altos High girls basketball team’s Senior Night might as well have been called Mahika Gupta Night, because she’s the sole senior on the squad. After being honored in a pregame ceremony, the center played an integral role in the Eagles’ 44-28 victory over Fremont Friday.
Gupta scored 12 points – including the game’s first and last baskets – in Los Altos’ SCVAL El Camino Division finale.
“We’re absolutely going to miss her,” coach Jaclyn Brode said of the Colby College-bound Gupta. “She is resilient, works hard every day and is completely about the team and her teammates. She just does it all.”
Gupta began Friday’s home game by making a fastbreak layup, and the Eagles (9-3 league, 17-6 overall) led the rest of the way. However, Fremont (3-8, 7-15) made them work for the win.
After sophomore guard Mone Sekiguchi capped her seven-point opening quarter with a steal and layin that pushed Los Altos’ lead to 14-5 with 20 seconds left, the Firebirds fought back. Guard Latanya Lee drained a jumper just inside the 3-point line to beat the first-quarter buzzer, the start of a 6-0 run that enabled Fremont to trim its deficit to three early in the second.
The Eagles’ first points of the period didn’t come until the 4:32 mark when Gupta scored from the low block off a drive-and-dish pass from Sekiguchi. Gupta scored inside on Los Altos’ next possession as well, pushing the lead to 18-13.
“I think we definitely had a rocky start and we definitely should have beaten them by a lot more,” Gupta said. “But overall, it was a good game. We fought and we won and we played well.”
Up five at intermission, the Eagles erupted for eight straight points to begin the third quarter. Sophomore guard Jamie Baum’s spin move on a left-side drive to the basket ignited the run.
“I’ve been practicing my spin moves a lot,” said Baum, whose 13 points paced Los Altos Friday. “We’ve also been practicing fastbreaks a lot and our press break … and we try to get fastbreaks out of that – that’s the purpose of it.”
After the Firebirds responded with a 5-0 run, Baum made a fastbreak layin off an inbound pass, putting the Eagles ahead 30-20 with 2:57 remaining in the third. Fremont then went on another 5-0 spurt before Los Altos capped the quarter with a drive down the middle by Sekiguchi and a breakaway layin from Evelyn Baher-Murphy to make it 34-25.
“We have nice speed and some good ballhandlers, so we wanted to push the ball and push the tempo,” Brode said.
The Eagles’ nine-point lead to start the fourth ballooned to 44-26 with 2:31 to play after an 8-0 outburst. Gupta punctuated the run by scoring back-to-back baskets from the low post. Los Altos held Fremont to 1-for-9 shooting in the quarter and didn’t surrender a field goal until the final minute.
Next up: the Central Coast Section playoffs. The Eagles are expected to play a first-round game Friday; the opponent will be determined at today’s seeding meeting.
“We’re really excited,” Baum said of the playoffs. “Last year we got out in the first round, and this year we really want to go far. We have the potential.”
Gupta believes she knows what it will take for Los Altos to live up to that potential.
“We just have to come out with that intensity and we can’t waste a single day of this week of practice,” she said. “We have to come out hard on Friday and come ready for the win. We’ve just got to keep fighting.”