The second quarter avalanche by the Milpitas Trojans was too much for the Fremont Firebirds of Sunnyvale to overcome. The Trojans would extend the lead to as high as 21 points before a valiant Firebird effort in the fourth quarter, but eventually succumbing to a 62-51 defeat on Friday night.
Constant pressure from the Milpitas defense forced the Firebirds into several miscues that cost them layups and a shortage of shots at the basket. Milpitas made Fremont pay for their careless passes and lack of ball security.
“No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to replicate that level of pressure in practice situations,” Fremont coach Tony Kikuta remarked. “Every game we play, we get a little bit better and I thought we did a pretty good job — it’s just that we were a little bit careless with the ball.”
Junior guard Yuval Danino added to his coach’s sentiments about turnovers and pressure from Milpitas.
“I think we had a lot of turnovers,” Danino said. “[We] probably had six or seven turnovers, where they just took the ball and got a layup.”
Milpitas had several interior looks and scores around the basket. The Firebirds had a difficult time corralling the inside looks the Trojans were getting. The lack of size Fremont had hurt them.
Could Fremont have played more zone defense helping them limit the interior looks and scoring that Milpitas was getting?
“I felt like when we played zone initially, they did a pretty good job of finding open space and knocking down shots,” coach Kikuta said. “I felt like they were getting easier looks in the zone [defense] than the man [defense].”
In a game where the momentum shifted in favor of Milpitas with a second quarter 13-0 burst that put the Trojans ahead for most of the night, coach Kikuta had to find some energy and production somewhere.
He turned to his bench in the third and fourth quarter. His reserves helped provide a spark, but the mountainous deficit was too difficult to overcome.
“I thought they did a really good job,” coach Kikuta said of his bench. “I thought Jeffrey Kwon in particular, came in and had fantastic energy. He played with a lot of pride, which I thought was important.”
One of the few bright spots for the Firebirds was Danino, who had 18 points and three three-pointers.
“In the beginning, I wish I made a couple more threes, but at the end, we shot some good shots and made them,” the junior sharpshooter said. “It wasn’t enough because we didn’t play good enough defense at the end.”
How do the Firebirds make the necessary adjustments against Milpitas when they play them again?
“I think we need to be a little stronger with the ball, in terms of not turning it over,” coach Kikuta said. “I think we need to have a better plan of how we’re going to defend them closer to the basket.”
The Firebirds play on the road against Lynbrook at 7 p.m. on Monday night.