In what was a hotly contested first half, the Santa Clara Bruins junior varsity basketball team dropped the opening-round game of their annual JV tournament to Cupertino, 40-19 on Wednesday. The Bruins trailed just 13-11 late in the second quarter and an impressive buzzer beating layup by Ralvin Pascua cut a 17-11 deficit to just 17-13. Unfortunately for Santa Clara, a technical foul due to a misreported jersey number gave Cupertino two free throws to start the third quarter. The Bruins never recovered from there. The Pioneers would outscore Santa Clara by a staggering 23-6 in the second half.
“The first half we played ok, we were making plays, made our adjustments,” commented Head Coach Justin Dixon. “Second half we just fell apart, we lost confidence in our offense, we didn’t do our job on the defensive side. Credit Cupertino, they are a great team, well coached and they made plays.”
Cupertino played a stifling defense that kept the Bruins from being able to penetrate the lane throughout the entire game. That defense forced Santa Clara into some costly turnovers as they seemed to get frustrated without the ability to get many easy looks at the basket, or even quality outside shots.
“It goes both ways,” commented coach Dixon on whether it was poor offense from Santa Clara or great defense by Cupertino. “We should have ran our offense more thoroughly, running with quicker pace, setting our picks better. I think that comes with our inexperience. We have almost a whole new team except two [returners]. It’s about getting them up to speed and Cupertino knew coming in what we were doing. We played against them three times last year, so they knew what viking was, they knew how to switch it, they knew the reads, but we should have made our adjustments better.”
Last season the Bruins JV squad went 8-16 and just 2-10 in league, but did play Cupertino tough. The Bruins went 1-2 against the Pioneers, winning by three and losing by three and seven.
“A lot of it came down to just communication or lack thereof,” commented sophomore co-captain Seth Everett. “A lot of times we left guys open and let up easy open drives. We weren’t running our offense as smoothly as we usually do in practice. I could have done a lot better job in terms of creating offense and making sure that everyone else was being held accountable. I take a lot of blame for what happened.”
“That gave us energy, we were pumped,” commented the other sophomore co-captain Angelo Candel on the first-half buzzer beater from Pascua. “It just comes down to our poise and our communication, which we didn’t have tonight.”
Despite the loss, the Bruins showed they have some young talent. Freshman Rohan Kolappa drained four three-point shots, for a team-high 12 points. Not to mention, the effort was there from start to finish, as multiple Bruins players were seen diving for loose balls with disregard for their own well-being. Everett nearly fell over the scorers table in the second half trying to keep the play alive. Coach Dixon may have been frustrated with the execution, but certainly not the effort.
“Those are just hustle plays,” recalled Dixon. “We always talk about what are you going to do to help this team be successful. Those hustle plays, you can’t coach that. That’s a matter of if they want do it and they did.”
Both Dixon and Assistant Coach Kern Rikhi are in their early-to-mid twenties and are alumni of Santa Clara High themselves. They both expressed the fortunate opportunity to come back and help coach a program and community they grew up in.
“I came to coach at Santa Clara High because I went here, went to Santa Clara University, born at the Kaiser on Homestead,” commented Rikhi. ” I love my city, love my school and I just want to do whatever I can to help.”
“I love it, I love this community,” added coach Dixon. “There are really great kids, great support, lot of parents, lot of familiar faces out there in the stands and I love the staff.”
Dixon is quite the vocal coach during games, he can be heard all the way up the last row of bleachers shouting instructions to his players. Sometimes loud coaches aren’t always the most well-liked coaches by kids, but that didn’t seem the case at all when talking to the Bruins players.
“As a coach he’s great,” commented Everett after the game. “It let’s us know he cares a lot when he shows so much passion. He expects a lot out of us, but he sticks up for us too and that’s all we can ask for as players. If the refs aren’t giving us a certain call he’s always there to fight for us and be like ‘look this is what’s happening, I protect my players.'”