The Fremont Firebirds varsity basketball squad has opened the 2023-24 season with a bit of a mixed bag in terms of results. Fremont began the campaign winning four of its first five games, but with Tuesday’s 56-49 loss to Menlo School, the Firebirds have now lost three of the team’s last four.
However, the overall 5-4 record in non-league games is very much a positive sign for a squad that has been facing some tough competition in preparation for a much tougher league season in ’23-’24. A year ago, the Lady Firebirds finished undefeated in the lower El Camino league and that performance has catapulted the team up into the De Anza this season.
In response, Head Coach Miguel Castillo has purposefully scheduled some stronger non-league opponents than in years past.
“I scheduled some tough games because I knew we had a good returning team, but they need to get that experience since we are moving up to the De Anza,” confirmed Castillo. “Our philosophy is all about improving, in practice and in the games. As far as wins or losses, we don’t really talk about that, just do your best every day and see what happens.”
It will certainly be incredibly interesting to see how the Firebirds will fare in the upper division this season. One of the biggest learning lessons in the loss to Menlo would be how to better attack the zone defense. Coach Castillo also noted they hadn’t seen much zone prior to the game and the Firebirds struggled at both ends when it came to points in the paint.
“As a ball handler and on the wings, I think we need to direct our forwards better on when to come up and when to go back down,” chimed senior guard Anusha Chadalavada on beating the zone. “Especially when there are three people grouping up on that one person. It’s hard for them to see everything so we need to communicate with them on where to go with the ball.”
“Better passing, pass the ball a little quicker,” added junior guard Luciana Ortiz. “Get them the ball quicker to get easier buckets.”
Ortiz, Chadalavada and Mackenzie Wong each drained three or more threes in the game for the Firebirds, but the points in the paint were difficult to come by against a scrappy Menlo defense. In the first quarter in particular, all nine Fremont points were courtesy of three threes from Chadalavada.
Despite the struggles in the paint, Fremont did manage to find themselves up 19-14 midway through the second quarter.
However, Menlo would take over from there, closing out the second stanza on a 14-5 run and taking a 28-24 lead into halftime.
The Knights lead would balloon up to 11 points at the end of the third quarter, a 44-33 advantage after three.
Fremont had a chance to take the last shot of the third quarter with the shot clock off but inexplicably attempted a shot with 10 seconds still remaining. The Firebirds would end the quarter with a defensive stop, but the ending sequence to the quarter is another learning lesson as the league season approaches.
The Firebirds have one more non-league game left on Dec. 28 before opening the league season Jan. 5, 2024 against Monta Vista.