Tuesday night’s basketball game between the Santa Clara Bruins and the Lynbrook Vikings was a game that nobody on the Bruins’ side will soon forget. Despite dealing with multiple injuries to start the season, Santa Clara improved to 4-4 on the season with a 57-50 overtime win.
It’s even more impressive given the fact Lynbrook beat Monta Vista by 14 points in their season opener while the Bruins dropped their game to Monta Vista 54-28. The cards certainly seemed stacked against Santa Clara, but the Bruins rallied together as a unit, led by two underclassmen in freshman center Mia Talalele and sophomore guard Nina Llamas.
Coming in off the bench, the 5’10” Talalele has given the Bruins an inside rebounding presence that the team hasn’t had much of in recent seasons.
“We started off really sluggish in the first quarter, but then she came in and definitely gave us a spark,” remarked Bruins Head Coach Deedee Kiyota. “She grabs a lot of rebounds for us, she almost had a double-double.”
So how does the freshman center describe what she brings to the team?
“Bodying up in the paint,” chimed Talalele. “And getting rebounds.”
With Talalele’s inside presence and Llamas hitting a game-tying, buzzer-beating three to send the game to overtime, the two youngsters were certainly doing their best Kobe and Shaq impersonation with the way they were leading the Bruins. Trailing 46-43 with 15 seconds remaining, Santa Clara used a timeout to discuss their last-ditch play. Llamas’s three-pointer would bank in off the glass with just two seconds on the clock.
The Bruins would carry that momentum into overtime where they would outscore the Vikings 11-4 in the extra session.
“Our girls play really good defense, so most nights I know defensively that we will do well. The question is whether or not we can get the ball to go down at the other end,” noted Coach Kiyota.
Asked if her squad especially relies on the three-pointers falling in for offense, Kiyota added, “It has to do with any shot falling for us. We haven’t been doing so hot offensively anywhere, whether that’s under the basket or outside and turnovers are a big deal for us. Some nights we will have 30 turnovers, but we kept it under 20 tonight, so that was really key for us.”
The Bruins will now get a week off over the Christmas break before playing in a post-Christmas holiday tournament starting on Dec. 28.
Santa Clara will follow that up with one final non-league game against Irvington of Fremont on Jan. 3 before opening the league season at home against Fremont (of Sunnyvale) on Jan. 7.
Santa Clara will look to improve from last year’s 3-9 league record. If Tuesday night was any indication, the team looks more than ready to improve upon that mark, perhaps even flip those numbers to nine wins and three losses.