The Los Altos High boys basketball team may have limped into the playoffs, but the Eagles exited with their heads held high.
Los Altos followed a 2-10 SCVAL De Anza Division season with a pair of road playoff wins before bowing out in the Central Coast Section Division I quarterfinals.
“It was a great playoff run,” coach Trevor Naas said after the Eagles’ 58-39 loss at top-seeded Piedmont Hills Feb. 19. “I loved the fact that regardless of what our league record was – it’s easy for a team that goes 2-10 to kind of hang their heads and give up on the season – these guys kept fighting. I’m really proud of that.”
Brock Susko, who scored a game-high 19 points, agreed.
“I feel we did a good job getting as far as we did,” the sophomore said. “It’s definitely something to build on for next season.”
Tenth-seeded Los Altos (13-14 overall) took an improbable path to the quarterfinals, eking out one-point wins at No. 9 Milpitas (20-5) and No. 8 Los Gatos (13-12) the week before.
By then, the word was out – underestimate the Eagles at your own peril – and Piedmont Hills (21-4) clearly heeded the warning. The Pirates jumped on Los Altos early, leading 19-7 by the end of the first quarter and maintaining a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
“They come at you with a lot of energy, play a lot of guys and they compete on both ends of the court,” Naas said of Piedmont Hills, which buried four of its 10 3-pointers in the opening period. “They’re a strong opponent, and we definitely knew that coming in.”
Despite being down 35-14 at halftime and 44-24 at the end of the third quarter, Los Altos didn’t concede. The Eagles opened the fourth with an 11-5 run initiated by Susko’s layin off a steal. Chris Shell nailed a top-of-the-key 3 during the spurt (the second and last trey Los Altos made in the game), and Susko capped it with a left-side drive that cut the deficit to 49-35 with 3:46 left.
After the Pirates answered with a putback from Isaac Teferri (team-high 12 points), they fouled Dominic D’Augusta on a 3 attempt and he sank two of his three free throws to make it a 14-point game again.
That’s as close as the Eagles would get. Piedmont Hills scored the next seven points, prompting Naas to call a timeout to sub in his reserves for the final 1:14.
“Several times we made it seem like we were right there to begin a push to get it over the top, but we were never quite able to make it a game at the end,” Naas said.
It was the way Los Altos started the game that proved more detrimental. The Eagles struggled mightily to make shots in the opening half, missing 14 of their 18 field-goal attempts.
“It was hard to get anything going (offensively) against them and we didn’t play very good defense in the first half,” Susko said. “That really hurt us; we had a big hole to overcome.”
Without Susko’s performance, that hole would have been even greater. The lone Los Altos player to make a field goal in the half, he scored all seven of his team’s points in the first quarter. Susko drained his first two jumpers – the second a straight-on swish from beyond the arc – and dribbled behind his back on a successful drive in the final minute of the period.
“He’s been playing great recently,” Naas said. “These three playoff games he’s been outstanding, and he’s been doing a lot for us all year. He had another great game tonight.”