Yuval Danino started off hot for the Fremont Firebirds of Sunnyvale, hitting his first two threes of the game. He would continue his torrid scoring throughout the game and help carry the Firebirds past the Wilcox Chargers, 50-43 and into the championship game of the Fremont Varsity Tournament on Friday night.
Danino didn’t know if he would have a monster scoring night of 22 points because of the way he shot in warmups.
“Not really. I didn’t feel good before,” Danino said. “I just came out strong and I made a couple of shots.”
Despite Danino carrying the offensive load, the Firebirds had difficulty in breaking through the Wilcox press, turning the ball over several times in the second quarter. The Firebirds kept trying to dribble through the press, which resulted in steals and layups on the other end for the Chargers.
What necessary adjustments could the Firebirds make against a team like Wilcox that pressures so much?
“I think a lot of it has to do with being too sped up,” Fremont coach Tony Kikuta said. “So I want the kids to play fast, but I don’t want them to rush. Some of that is a function of experience.”
When the Firebirds did break the Wilcox press, they would get open layups at the basket as a result of dribble penetration.
Wilcox made their run in the second quarter off of the live ball turnovers from the press they implemented against Fremont. They would go into intermission with a two-point lead against the Firebirds, 25-23.
In the third quarter, it was Fremont’s turn to put its foot on the gas pedal and mount a charge, which they outscored the Chargers, 15-3. Most of the damage was done by Danino, but seniors Scedrick Tippins and Abel Seno provided some timely buckets off the Wilcox pressure.
The fourth quarter started off smoothly for the Firebirds, scoring the first five points to take a 43-28 lead in the first couple of minutes of the final frame. However, the Chargers crafted together a 9-0 surge to make it a six point game. But the home team was able to quell that surge with seven points to the Chargers’ six, to advance to the championship contest on Saturday night.
It was a solid win for the Firebirds against a team they will see two more times during the league season.
“Playing a team like Wilcox really helps us, not just prepare for them in the future, but in general, it helps us prepare for the whole league season and to be a better team,” Kikuta said.
The Firebirds will play in the championship game in the Fremont Varsity Tournament against Cupertino on Saturday night at 8 p.m.