The Fremont Firebirds varsity basketball team was up against it even before tipoff Monday night. Fremont had just two available players off the bench in this opening tournament game against Del Mar.
Furthermore, one of the Firebirds’ strongest forwards, junior Trinity Lee, was playing in her first game in over a year after suffering a meniscus tear. On the other side of the scorer’s table, Del Mar had six players available off their bench. On sheer depth alone, it looked to be a tall task for the Firebirds to be able to outlast the Dons over four quarters.
Fremont was missing three starters and six total players from their roster, yet still managed to squeak out a 35-31 win.
Facing all that adversity going into the game, Fremont was hoping to get off to a good start but was immediately faced with additional adversity.
Lee picked up two quick fouls within the first three minutes and picked up a third before the end of the first quarter. That left Head Coach Miguel Castillo having to adjust on the fly and lean even more heavily on his starting backcourt in guards Sophie Chang and Ciarra O’Leary.
The two guards never left the court, playing the entire 32 minutes. Chang led the way for the Firebirds, dropping in 16 points and adding 5 assists, one of which sprung O’Leary for a wide-open corner three.
“She’s just kind of coming into her own now in her junior year,” remarked Coach Castillo on Chang. “She’s always had the talent. When she was a freshman I saw her passing, her ability to read the court. We’ve since worked on her shot. She now has more confidence in her shot. She has more range with it. She’s started to be able to control the game.”
“Sophie has been playing varsity since her freshman year and she’s really built up her ability to see the court,” echoed Lee on her fellow junior teammate. “She’s been a really good point guard, seeing other players open and taking the shots when they are open. She’s a really good leader for us.”
Chang and Lee teamed up for arguably the biggest basket of the game and it was an impressive sequence to boot. After expanding their lead to its largest margin—eight points—midway through the fourth quarter, Fremont started to struggle a bit when Del Mar switched to a full-court press.
At one point the Firebirds led 31-23, but the Dons went on a 6-0 run to pull back within two with just over two minutes left to play. At that point, Chang made a nice pass down into the paint to Lee who just managed to beat the shot clock and get her layup to fall to end Del Mar’s run and increase the lead back to four.
Del Mar would get a chance with the ball down two points with 7.5 seconds left on the clock, but Lee would intercept the inbound pass. Chang would then ice the game with two free throws at the other end.
Other notable standouts for the Firebirds were junior Leyla Murgia and freshman forward Smera Jain. Each chipped in four points while the former drew a tough offensive foul, and the latter was a rebounding force at both ends.