The Homestead side of the bleachers mobbed the court as the Mustangs got a rebound put-back to win the Fremont-Homestead rivalry game 52-51 in overtime on Friday night.
The Mustangs improved to 7-2 in the De Anza division, while the Firebirds dropped to 3-3 in the El Camino Division.
It was just a non-conference preseason game between the Fremont Firebirds of Sunnyvale and the Homestead Mustangs of Cupertino, but the atmosphere in the gym said otherwise. The bleachers in the gym were divided into a side for Fremont and one for Homestead with each side chanting relentlessly.
The non-league game seesawed back and forth with each team exchanging buckets and big plays alike.
One of the most significant plays for the Firebirds came out of a timeout. With Fremont down by three late in the fourth quarter, Fremont coach Tony Kikuta ran a misdirection play that resulted in a wide-open corner three by junior guard Yuval Danino tying the game at 45 apiece in the final two seconds of regulation.
It was the perfect drawn up play for the team’s best shooter and former frosh/soph league MVP.
“The standard play is actually a play we stole from Homestead,” coach Kikuta said. “It’s basically just a misdirection play. In that play, we run a little loop action, we run a cross screen to a secondary screen and that’s what opened up that corner three.
Coach Kikuta drew up another play late in overtime with the Firebirds down by a deuce. The result of it was a three-point shot by senior forward Scedrick Tippins at the top of the key to put Fremont up by one with 11 seconds left.
However, unfortunately for the Firebirds, they did not make enough plays in overtime to win the game. It was particularly the last play of overtime that hurt the Firebirds. There was a missed layup by Homestead and the center snared the rebound and banked in the put-back with a couple seconds left to give Homestead the victory.
It is much easier to learn from a close loss than a blowout loss, according to coach Kikuta. In close games, there are always one or two plays from the game that a coach can point to and say they made the difference.
“One of the lessons I think you take away from a really close game like this is that everything that happens matters,” coach Kikuta said. “The last play was basically a rebound and that was the difference in the game, but I think everyone can point to one thing they could have done better in the game to make the outcome a little bit different.”
Tippins led the Firebirds in scoring with 16 points and four three-pointers and Danino had 13 points with three three-pointers.
The Firebirds have to have amnesia as they play in the Fremont Varsity Tournament starting next Thursday at 8 p.m.