BOYS BASKETBALL: Mustangs playoff run derailed in 71-47 loss to Serra

Gilroy's Greg Hamik is double-teamed by Serra defenders as he

SAN JOSE – Advancing farther in the playoffs than any Gilroy
High basketball team in the last 25 years, the 2009-10 Mustangs
gave it their all yet fell short to an imposing Serra squad 71-47
in the semifinals of the CCS playoffs Wednesday night.
SAN JOSE – By advancing into the semifinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs, the 2009-10 Gilroy High boys basketball team did something that no other Mustangs basketball team had done in the last 25 years.

Gilroy ‘s quest for a championship, though, was thwarted one game short of the finals, as the No. 4-seeded Mustangs were eliminated from contention by No. 1 Serra 71-47 on Wednesday night at Independence High School in San Jose .

“It’s a testament to the kids and how hard they worked to be an above average team,” head coach Jeremy Dirks said of his Mustangs’ accomplishments this season.

By the end of the game, the usual smiles displayed by players on a team that enjoy being out on the floor with one another, wore off and the battle wounds were evident.

Both Michael Aldridge and Cameron Yawary literally left blood out on the court; Aldridge suffering a cut on his chin after diving for a loose ball, and Yawary taking an elbow to the nose.

“We played our butts off,” Dirks said.

Despite the typical hustle and effort that accompanies the Mustangs game in and game out, Gilroy was simply beaten by a team that came in confident and prepared.

Playing out of the West Catholic Athletic League, the Serra Padres’ reputation preceded them coming into Wednesday’s contest – stingy defense and lights-out shooting.

“They just have a hype that comes with them,” said Aldridge, one of the six seniors to lace up his high tops for the final time as a Mustang. “It took us two quarters to get into it.”

A slow start by the Mustangs in the opening quarter played directly into the section’s second-ranked squad’s game plan. The Padres forced seven turnovers and limited Gilroy to just four shots from the field in building a 13-6 first-quarter advantage.

“We knew Serra would be good, but we came out really shaky,” senior Michael Hartman said. “We played hard all game. Even though we didn’t win tonight, we came in and won one game and that’s better than nothing. I’m happy with what we did in the playoffs.”

The turnover problems continued in the second quarter with another eight giveaways stalling any offensive flow the Mustangs attempted to establish.

“If we limited our turnovers, especially in that first quarter, it would have helped quite a bit,” Dirks said. “They are known for forcing turnovers. That’s what they do.”

The Mustangs tried to exploit the middle of the lane, a weak area of the Padres’ tenacious man-to-man defense, by driving to the basket as often as possible. Yet when the open looks came, the proverbial lid closed on the hoop.

The Mustangs shot just 4 of 12 in the first half and had 15 turnovers. Conversely, Serra shot just under 50 percent (12 of 25) and only gave up the ball six times, taking a 36-19 lead into the locker room.

“They knocked down the shots,” Dirks said. “They are one of the best shooting teams out there.”

Gilroy ‘s leading scorer, senior Greg Hamik, who has had a target on his back the entire season, was a nonfactor for much of the game. Only taking four shots all night (1 of 4), Hamik was continuously pestered with and without the ball and held in single digits with eight points for the first time this season.

“(Ryan Tana) was denying me most of the game,” Hamik said. “He made it tough on me, and when I did get the ball, he had a hand up. When I drove it they all closed in, forcing me to kick it out.”

The Padres clamped down in the second half after letting the Mustangs hang around until late in the third quarter.

The Mustangs chipped away and stayed within 15 points before the Padres unleashed six straight buckets spanning the end of the third and the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter, expanding their lead to 23 points with five minutes remaining.

“When you come out slow, you’re playing catch up the whole game and it makes it tough to come back,” Hamik said.

Padres guard Jordan Reudy led all scorers with 22 points on 7 of 16 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Tana contributed 16 points and Mark Jajeh posted 14.

Hartman led the Mustangs as the only player in double figures with 10 points. Yawary finished with nine and Max Fishler had a balanced effort with seven points.

For the six seniors whose four-year journey together came to an abrupt end, the night’s outcome was bittersweet, with memories and hugs being shared, but the anguish of what could have been lingering.

NOTE: No. 2 Bellarmine defeated No. 3 Santa Teresa 58-49 in the night’s other semifinals game. The Bells and Padres will square off in an all-WCAL Division I final on Saturday. Bellarmine is the defending champion.

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