El Estoque

Girls basketball: Team unable to clasp close battle against Fremont HS

Rana Aghababazadeh

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith only three minutes remaining in the final quarter, the MVHS girls basketball team was down three points behind Fremont HS. The crowd was yelling and the benches of both teams were standing up. The Matadors were on a three-game losing streak and were determined to win this game, but even after getting off several fast breaks, the Matadors eventually fell behind, losing their first quad game 44-53.

“Going into the game, I was very tense and I wanted to be hyped,” sophomore Jessica Ji said. “Everything was depending on this game so much, especially because it’s our first quad game.”

After MVHS’ four-point loss against Los Altos HS on Jan. 6, the team spent the following practices focusing on weaknesses in the last game. These included practicing shots closer to the basket as well as basic play execution.  

We’ve been working really hard at practice,” junior Joyce Chen said. “We were shooting like 140 shots, just short shots every single day.”

The game began with back and forth scoring from both teams and two-pointers made by Chen and senior Rhea Rangarajan. MVHS took the two point lead halfway through the first quarter.

FHS started to pick up their pace, increasing the ball movement and working MVHS’ defense to get a jumper. Senior Alysha Agarwal fouled, giving FHS both foul shots and stabilizing the score 4-5.

After a one minute timeout, MVHS spreaded out their defense, pressuring the ball and causing FHS to give up several passes. The timeout allowed MVHS to spread out the defense, making it difficult for FHS to get a shooting opportunity. Although they denied FHS several shots, they were unable to get ahead in the first quarter. In the last minute, Ji got off a fast break but missed the shot. MVHS later failed  on a few three-point attempts and closed out the quarter 6-9 FHS.

The Matadors started off the second half with more aggression, boxing out and moving the ball faster to confuse the defense, countering what FHS had done in the previous quarter. This gave MVHS opportunities to score with what they’d been working on: open lanes to take closer shots.

Chen and Ji got off a few shots and steals, giving the Matadors more edge on the offensive side. Although they were playing more effectively, the team drew two fouls and gave FHS the free throws. FHS responded as their guards dribbled towards the basket, trying to continue to draw more fouls.

However, the MVHS team didn’t let their opponents’ aggression cost them. Instead, they changed the formation, letting their smaller players freshman Ashley Liu and junior Jessie Pao double team the FHS point guard. Though FHS had gained points from easy possessions, Liu got off two layups and pulled ahead in the end of the second half 23-21.

As a shorter team, MVHS put more focus into other skills.

“We’re a pretty small team,” Ji said. “So we’ve been working on our speed and getting up and down the court.”

The second half was a boost for the MVHS team as they got more shooting opportunities, but they were unable to maintain the same energy and mindset of the first half. Head Coach Sara Borelli felt that they were not playing to their fullest ability.

“[I told the team] that we need to step up, that we’re not playing defense the way we should be, that this is not the team that we are,” Borelli said.

She also felt that the team needed to work on being mentally prepared, as players were often confused about the play or defense when they were subbed in.  

The start of the second half did not go well for the Matadors as the FHS team put in newer players which made it hard for MVHS to anticipate their strategy. Chen admits that they had a hard time recognizing the distinct players that would usually cut or shoot.

Later, FHS got several steals and more possessions that pulled them slightly ahead on the scoreboard. However, MVHS was still able to stay close behind as players freshman Audrey Lai banked a shot and Liu made one of two foul shots, making the score 31-32 with two minutes remaining. The score was close, but the Matadors were unable to keep up as FHS was clasping rebound after rebound, frustrating the Matadors FHS landed a deep three, ending the third quarter 33-37.

Most of what was noticed in the team’s stronger first half could be seen again in the fourth quarter. The team played smarter and more aggressively, keeping their focus on the offensive side. MVHS scored the first points of the quarter, including a noticeable block by Chen that excited the crowd.

The frustration could still be seen in the eyes of the Matadors as FHS was still in the lead with only three minutes left in the game. This mainly affected MVHS’ defense while they were continuing to miss easy shots.

“There were some points on defense where we wouldn’t be playing to our fullest potential and that was really frustrating individually,” Ji said.

It seemed like MVHS would never come back, but Pao picked up a foul and made two of two free throws, making the score 44-47. But those were the last points that MVHS scored. With only one minute left on the clock, the team gave up possessions and fouled, letting FHS seal the game 44-53.

Though they weren’t far behind FHS, they weren’t able to push past them and take the win. Chen admitted that the fault was theirs and that FHS was not the problem.

“It was mistakes that we made that contributed to us losing, and it was things that we could have done and we could have fixed,” Chen said. “This was our chance.”

The Matadors play Lynbrook HS on Jan. 20 at 6:15 PM.

Additonal reporting by Amanda Chan, Vijeet Chaugule, Akshara Majjiga and Om Khandekar