Taking on the El Camino League leading Los Gatos Wildcats, the Fremont Firebirds knew they were in for a tough test on their home floor Tuesday night. The Firebirds would end up passing said test with a thrilling 48-45 victory, and one big lesson learned—it ain’t over until the final buzzer.
Fremont built the game’s biggest lead for either side with a nine-point advantage going into the fourth quarter, but the game would not be decided until the final possession. Trailing by three with 6.4 seconds remaining, the Wildcats took a timeout to try and set up a play for a game-tying three-pointer. Los Gatos would get a decent look at the tying shot, but the attempt hit the front iron. The Firebirds grabbed the rebound with just 0.3 seconds on the clock.
“Los Gatos is a really well-coached team. Their kids play really, really hard. They are smart, disciplined and very difficult to play against,” remarked Fremont Head Coach Tony Kikuta. “We had that nine-point lead, but I knew it was going to be really difficult coming down the stretch. We don’t have a super deep rotation.”
Fremont’s nine-point lead disappeared in the fourth quarter without the Firebirds sinking a single shot. Los Gatos stormed back from down 42-33 to tie things up midway through the quarter at 42-42. The next basket, while not the game-winner, was arguably the shot of the game. With all the momentum on the Wildcats side, Fremont guard Shota Xu rose up and drained a three-pointer, with a defender in his face, to finally get Fremont on the board in the fourth quarter.
“That was a game-changer,” chimed teammate Briceton Walker on Xu’s huge three-pointer. “We needed that momentum back. When he hit that, we were able to settle down and make a few more clutch plays to get the win.”
“We were just talking in the locker room about how that was the shot of the game for us,” added coach Kikuta on the big three-pointer. “We were struggling a little bit and it probably wasn’t in the flow of what we were trying to do, but all credit to him for that shot. We knew for better or worse he wasn’t going to be afraid of the moment and it worked out.”
While Xu hit the game’s biggest shot, the game’s MVP was undoubtedly senior Dev Chatha who was once again the Firebirds’ go-to scorer. The senior drove the basket and earned multiple and-one opportunities on the glass, but also drained a deep three early in the game without any hesitation.
“It’s really fun to play with Dev because he can play make, he can score, he’s like the best player in the league,” praised Xu on Chatha. “When you have the best player in the league it certainly makes things more fun.”
It was the combination of Chatha’s clutch free throws and Bronson Stein’s effort to earn a jump ball and possession with under 20 seconds left that helped seal the deal. Stein came down with the dual possession rebound, then Chatha was fouled and drained two free throws to increase the lead back to three.
At that point with 14.6 seconds left, Los Gatos had to try and shoot the three at the buzzer.