By Pete Borello
The fifth-seeded Mountain View High boys basketball team recovered from a disastrous start to Thursday’s Central Coast Section Division I semifinal to seize the lead in the third quarter, but No. 8 Homestead did just enough in the fourth to escape with a 47-44 win.
Trailing by two, the Mustangs opened the final stanza with a 12-2 run that enabled them to withstand another rally by the host Spartans, who scored the game’s final five points and had several chances to get even closer.
Homestead’s last basket, scored inside by Los Altos resident Connor Kane, gave the Mustangs a 47-40 edge with 4:30 to play. That lead shrank to three when Ryan Bahar – clearly playing in pain after spraining his ankle early in the game – made a baseline drive for Mountain View with 2:22 to go.
The Spartans (13-6) sputtered offensively from there, missing two free throws and then five shots from the field in the last two minutes. Four of those attempts came from beyond the arc, two of them right after timeouts.
“We were trying to throw a couple different things at them, but they defended it well,” Mountain View coach Kevin Mack said of the Mustangs (13-8), who lost twice to his team in league play. “You’ve got to give them credit.”
Mack also heaped praised on his own players – in particular for their valiant effort after a brutal beginning to the contest.
“We gave a great effort – I mean after the first few minutes after I called the first timeout,” he said. “I don’t think our effort was great at the beginning, but I thought after that it was really good.”
The Spartans trailed 12-2 at the end of a first quarter in which Bahar, the team’s second-leading scorer this season, hobbled off the court less than a minute into the game.
The senior returned early in the second quarter and spurred the Spartans’ comeback. He made three consecutive 3s during an 11-1 run that reduced Mountain View’s deficit to two.
“He was so tough to play through that (injury); I thought he was going to be done for the game,” Mack said of Bahar, who totaled a game-high 23 points. “He fought through that, played well and made shots. He singlehandedly brought us back in the game in the first half.”
Kane played a prominent role in making sure that Bahar’s heroics didn’t sink his squad. The junior scored the next four points (free throw and 3-pointer) to extend Homestead’s lead to 21-15. Kane finished with a team-best 13 points.
After Navin Lo converted a drive for the Spartans, the Mustangs scored back-to-back baskets to go up eight at halftime.
Mountain View opened the third quarter with a baseline 3 from Lo, the start of a 12-2 spurt that provided the Spartans with their first lead of the night. Los Altos resident Jackson Faria answered with a straight-away 3 to put Homestead back on top, and Kane split free throws to make it 31-29.
Bahar’s 3 – his fifth of the game – allowed Mountain View to retake the lead with 2:46 left in the third. After Faria made a drive and turnaround jumper to give the Mustangs a three-point advantage, the Spartans countered with a floater by Bahar and a buzzer-beating 3 from Andrew Lau to go up 37-34 at quarter’s end.
“I was thinking, ‘OK after everything that we’ve gone through – all the missed shots and missed free throws and the tough start – we’ve got the lead now,” Mack said. “Then we kind of gave it away and they made some plays in the open court.”
Mountain View came up empty on its first four possessions of the fourth – committing two turnovers and missing three shots – while Homestead scored on a midrange jumper from Omri Remez and a layin from Daniel Brathwaite to recapture the lead. After Bahar scored on a spin move in the low post, tying the game at 39, the Mustangs went on an 8-0 run to pull away.
Homestead faces host No. 2 Piedmont Hills (17-5) in the Division I title game at 7 p.m. Saturday (June 12).
In other CCS semifinal action Thursday:
• The top-seeded Los Altos girls beat No. 4 Homestead 53-46 to qualify for the Division I final. The Eagles (13-3) host No. 3 Sequoia (7-1) 5 p.m. Saturday. Los Altos and Homestead, which split their two regular-season meetings, were tied at 22 at the half. The host Eagles pulled ahead by four at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Mustangs 14-11 in the fourth. Aliyah McPherson led Los Altos with 15 points, Jamie Baum scored 13 and Macy Watson 11.
• The second-seeded St. Francis girls toppled visiting No. 3 Branham 65-48 in Division II action. The Lancers (5-8) visit No. 1 Lynbrook (15-3) 7 p.m. Saturday.
• The top-seeded St. Francis boys routed No. 4 Leigh 64-41 to advance to Saturday’s Division II final. The Lancers (6-8) host No. 6 Wilcox (15-3) 7 p.m. Saturday.
• The Pinewood boys needed to win just one game to reach the five-team Division V final, and the top-seeded Panthers did just that, 71-53 over No. 4 Crystal Springs. Pinewood (7-8) hosts No. 2 Summit-Shasta (11-2) 4 p.m. Saturday.