The present results for the Fremont Firebirds varsity basketball squad are far from pretty. Through the first nine games of the season, Fremont has yet to win. However, in Tuesday’s game against Homestead, the Firebirds looked far more like a team that had won all eight of their previous games than lost them.
Despite being without key upperclassmen in senior Trinity Lee and junior Hayley Johnson due to injuries, the Firebirds had an eight-deep rotation of players who stood out with a positive impact. Five of those eight players are either freshmen or sophomores. Both the immediate and long-term future for Fremont looks far brighter than the recent present.
In Tuesday’s most recent loss to Homestead, the Firebirds fell by a final of 42-36, but it was a tight contest throughout. The Mustangs and Firebirds were tied 8-8 after the first quarter. Homestead held slim three point leads of 20-17 at the half and led 30-27 after three quarters.
In the fourth, Fremont fell behind as much as five points at 36-31 but then rallied to tie the game up at 36. The big shot of the game came from senior Sophie Chang, who drained her second three of the quarter to tie things up at 36 with under two minutes left. Homestead would respond with two more threes of their own to seal the game.
Despite the loss, it was an impressive performance from Fremont. Along with Chang, two other Firebirds also drained shots from deep. Junior Ciarra O’Leary buried a triple as part of an overall strong game, as did freshman Jiyah Caban.
Fellow freshman Vivian Lee had a nice left-handed scoop layup for a bucket and sophomores Mackenzie Wong and Luciana Oritz displayed terrific ball movement from their guard positions. Wong made an opponent look silly with an incredible crossover, while later feeding Caban with a nice assist. Ortiz, meanwhile, was an all around distributor and finisher whenever Fremont needed a bucket.
“They bring a lot of talent to the squad. Their youth is great for our team,” chimed Chang after Tuesday’s game on the performance of the underclassmen. “They have a lot of energy, and are really good shooters, so it’s great to see.”
Ortiz happily returned the favor, complimenting her captain for being the key scorer in crunch time.
“She makes those shots in the moments when we really need them,” praised the sophomore. “She’s a really good shooter; she’s really helpful to the team as the captain. She has that experience having played here at Fremont for four years. She’s all about full effort and never gives up. She keeps going and going and going.”
With the mix of strong upperclassmen and up-and-coming underclassmen, Head Coach Miguel Castillo is confident the positive results will start to come in short order.
“Right now, I have four girls who are starters that I’m waiting on. Two girls who transferred and Trinity and Hayley we will hopefully get back after finishing up some rehab,” noted Castillo. “And then our young ones. I have two freshmen. They are improving and the sophomores as well are getting better and better.”
That first win certainly looks like it’s in the immediate future for the Firebirds. They’ll look to pick up that first victory in their next game on Tuesday, Dec. 20 when they play at Leigh High School in San Jose.