Despite a late flurry in the final three minutes to pull from down 10 to within three, the Santa Clara Bruins boys basketball team fell to the Fremont Firebirds, 31-25 on Friday night. The Bruins came into the contest winners of five of their previous seven games (4-2 in league), including a 46-41 home victory over these same Fremont Firebirds. On the flip side Fremont stumbled into this game with a 1-5 league record. This time around though the feisty Firebirds forced the issue defensively, holding Santa Clara to just 25 points, their lowest scoring output of the season. Bruins’ leading scorer Jagos Jovanovic, who is averaging a double-double this season, chalked the loss up to a lack of effort.
“They just played harder than us, they worked harder,” commented the junior power forward. “We had our looks, we had our shots, but we weren’t really converting them. We shot 25 percent from the field, so I think that was the main problem this game.”
While the Bruins shooting percentage was indeed low, the quantity of opportunities were also rather limited due to some poor decision making. Junior point guard Mark Anthony Wishom leads the Bruins in assists this season averaging 4.3 per game, more than double any of his teammates. However, in this rematch with Fremont, a number of Wishom’s passes ended up as turnovers. It was just one of those collective off nights from top to bottom for the Bruins.
“Credit to Fremont, they came to play,” chimed assistant coach Justin Dixon filling in for Bruins Head Coach Tony McGilvery. “They were prepared, very well coached, executed their game plan. We came out flat, we weren’t confident, we weren’t hitting shots, everything just piled up.”
Santa Clara struggled to create space for open shots throughout the night and when they did get their opportunities, nothing was going in. Sharp-shooting point guard Jercey Paras opened the game 0-4 from three point range and just 1-3 on free throws. Jovanovic played well down in the paint, but getting him the ball was a struggle all night long for the Bruins.
“Going into the second half of league play [Fremont] knew who Jagos was,” added Dixon. “They game planned around him, so we countered, but we just couldn’t hit shots when we needed to.”
While the Bruins trailed 13-3 early, and then 26-16 late, they managed to make a game of it in the final minutes. On the very next possession after Fremont went up 26-16, Jovanovic responded with a layup to cut it to 26-18. After a defensive stop, freshman Geary Brown would split two free throws. Now 26-19, Fremont attacked the lane on their possession only to see Jovanovic come up with an impressive block at the rim. At the other end, a clutch three-point shot from junior Chris Clark cut the deficit to 26-22. Two possessions later, Jovanovic split his free throws to make the score 26-23.
Santa Clara would get a third consecutive stop on defense and had possession of the ball down just three points. Unfortunately a turnover by recently recalled sophomore Seth Everett turned possession back over to Fremont. With the Firebirds up three with under 30 seconds remaining, the Bruins were forced to start fouling. The Firebirds hit some clutch free throws to finish off the game.
Speaking of Everett, the forward fresh up from the JV squad only played a couple minutes late in the first quarter before getting back on the floor during the late comeback attempt. The sophomore was a superstar for the JV team, but Dixon, who is also the JV head coach, likes having him up on varsity.
“It was a great call [to bring him up], he adds some toughness and defense to our team,” noted Dixon. “He adds some depth that we needed. Tony is a smart coach and works Seth into the rotation very well. He’s getting more minutes each and every game.”
“Seth is a pretty outgoing guy, so he fits pretty well into our team,” added Jovanovic on his new teammate. “He’s a talkative guy, he’s up there with the enthusiasm, already showing leadership qualities.”
The Bruins now have five league games remaining before playoffs start in mid February.