Whilst the weather wasn’t pretty outside, Tuesday night, the Fremont Firebirds played a beautiful brand of basketball inside the warm and dry gymnasium at Saratoga High. While it was raining buckets outside, the Firebirds were draining buckets inside to the tune of a 58-42 victory over the Falcons.
“We really emphasize teamwork,” chimed Firebirds Head Coach Tony Kikuta. “It also helps that we have a really senior-heavy group that has been together and they all really like each other. They like playing with each other and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with them. For them, it’s about playing well as a team and not necessarily whether they scored a lot or whether they did well individually, more so in the service to the team.”
Two possessions in particular in this game showed the impressive team attitude on the offensive end of the floor. Early in the second quarter, the Firebirds were up against the shot clock as it was about to expire.
Rather than panic and take a contested shot with two seconds remaining, the Firebirds calmly made two quick passes down low into the paint. The final pass of the sequence found a wide-open Jayden Erby for a layup just a fraction of a second before the shot clock expired.
Towards the end of the second quarter, the Firebirds appeared to have nothing going with the Falcons playing tough defense. Fremont worked the ball around though, as all five guys touched the ball. Eventually, the ball found a wide-open Yuval Lewit for a three-point swish.
“We have great team chemistry and everyone knows that anyone can take the last shot,” noted Lewit. “It’s very easy for us to make extra passes to get a good shot at the end of the shot clock.”
While Lewit led the way offensively with seven threes for the Firebirds, the team game at both ends of the floor was tremendous. Senior Jaidev Shankar stood out the most on the defensive end, forcing jump balls and diving for loose balls on the floor even late in the game with a twenty-point lead.
It’s no surprise that defense was what he wanted to talk about first after the big win.
“We pride ourselves on defense and hustle plays,” responded Shankar when asked about his team’s overall performance. “We’ve gotten compliments from other coaches saying they wish they had our defense. Every single player on our team is a good defender and that really goes to show what our mindset is going into a game.”
That team defense mindset was clear throughout the game as Fremont players hustled to guard every open man and closing out hard on every Falcons shooter.
“We really work on team defense, the idea that if anybody scores, they scored on the entire team,” acknowledged Coach Kikuta. “We work a lot on help defense and on the ball defense, but it’s really our identity; you know I play guys who play good defense. And Jaidev, in particular, has really been an incredible piece for us at the end. He can guard the point guard. He can guard a big guy. He’s just an incredibly fast and smart player.”
Along with Shankar and Lewit, the Firebirds got other notable performances from Erby, Dan Chizik, Kyle Steigerwald, and Toshi North. With the win Fremont improved to 3-1 in league and 13-3 overall.
Next up, the Firebirds host Homestead on Jan. 18.