Wednesday night’s rematch between rival schools Santa Clara and Wilcox looked like it would be a disappointment from a competitive standpoint through three quarters. While Wilcox won the first game between the two schools 49-45, the first 24 minutes of the rematch was all Santa Clara.
The Bruins, despite losing sharp-shooting junior Fredge Ramos to injury earlier in the week, came out flying against the Chargers. Santa Clara’s junior varsity call ups Ralph Torda and Josh Bayog dazzled. They were without question the best players on the court, leading Santa Clara to quarter leads of 18-10, 37-25, and 53-42.
“They both had the option of starting the season on varsity, but they didn’t want to” remarked Bruins Head Coach Tony McGilvery after the Bruins’ eventual 62-58 win. “They would have been in our top eight, but they felt they would get more minutes and experience on the frosh-soph team. I didn’t agree with it, but I honored it. You saw it tonight, they both played amazing.”
Bayog and Torda led the way and a big part of their repertoire in doing so was using their speed to answer made buckets with buckets of their own at the other end. During one second-quarter sequence, the Chargers made three-point shots in back-to-back possessions, but after each shot, the Bruins struck quickly back with layups. The second of those layups was a remarkable high-flying, acrobatic layup from Torda that eventually had the sophomore crashing into the end wall behind the basket.
“We were worried with Fredge and Ian [Canlas] injuring their hands, but [Josh and Ralph] really gave us a lot speed on our defense, and then attacking, kicking it out to the corners,” remarked junior guard Jiovhani Toledo, who iced the game with two clutch free throws to put the Bruins up four points with 31.4 seconds left. “That was the main thing they brought, just a ton of speed.”
The Bruins needed Toledo’s clutch free throws because the Chargers came roaring back in the fourth quarter. Free throws from Pratinav Sharma, a slick pull up jumper from Brendon Yi and a pair of layups from Isaiah Frazier opened the quarter with the Chargers on an 8-2 run, pulling the score within just five points at 55-50.
Arguably, the biggest play in the sequence, though, wasn’t at the offensive end for the Chargers. On defense, Muhammad Assaf blocked a shot attempt in the low post by Bruins’ big man Harry Nauci. For most of the game Nauci had been a force on the offensive boards for the Bruins, cleaning up any misses by his teammates. Getting the big block from Assaf helped Wilcox maintain their momentum, something their defensive game did not allow them to do in the first three quarters.
“We certainly defended and guarded the ball better in the second half when we made our run,” remarked Chargers Head Coach Robert Toloy. “In the first half and midway through the third quarter they were able to attack the basket at will, so we needed to make adjustments.”
“We definitely made more plays defensively late in the game,” agreed Yi. “We had that drive and we were playing with our hearts. Turned it up on defense at the end.”
Both teams currently own identical 8-2 records in league, sharing possession of first place in the El Camino league.