After going into halftime with a slim three-point lead over Gilroy, San Benito head coach David Kaplansky knew his team needed to change their style of play.
Kaplansky dialed up the defensive intensity in the second half, and directed the Balers (16-4 overall, 7-1 TCAL) to a blowout 52-29 win the rival Mustangs (6-13, 1-7) on Wednesday night in Hollister.
The win completes a three-game sweep of the Mustangs for the Balers, who defeated Gilroy at Bob Hagen Gym twice already this year.
Wednesday’s Baler victory, however, was more one-sided than those previous games. Despite starting the game on a false note – San Benito trailed 8-6 after the first quarter – the Balers used a third-quarter opening 14-0 run to put away the Mustangs. In total, San Benito outscored Gilroy 24-3 in the third quarter, changing the course of the game.
For Gilroy, the loss is a showcase for a once promising season.
Gilroy controlled the tempo of the game’s first 16 minutes, forcing the Balers to play through a zone defense. The Mustang attack slowed down the game, and forced San Benito to work for its shots.
“I think we had a game plan and we stuck to it in the first half,” Gilroy head coach Matt Tait said. “We really executed what we wanted to do. We made it tough for them. They made some easy ones, and we made a couple. But the first half was exactly how we wanted to play for four quarters. And then the second half, they upped the intensity and we decided not to go with them. And then we decided to deviate from our plan, which isn’t good obviously.”
Gilroy forced San Benito to eight first-half turnovers, and took advantage of its opportunities. But those chances didn’t translate into the second half.
San Benito led by Jordan Belton, who scored a game-high 17 points, attacked defensively and offensively, forcing Gilroy to turn the ball over 19 times.
The change was a dramatic contrast to the Balers’ slow first half.
“Bottom line we just wanted to attack the basket,” Kaplansky said. “We were settling for too many perimeter shots in the zone. Too many long possessions, man. We just… bottom line attacked the basket (in the second half). Look for gaps, get to the rim and be a better penetrator, man, and stop settling for the open three point. Put a little more pressure on the defense so we can get out on transition and pick up the pace. It was just too slow of a pace in the first half. We wanted to pick up the tempo and really start putting them in situations where our defense can help create some offense. “
The change in momentum was apparent from the first in-bound pass.
Gilroy started the half with the ball, but after one pass, the Balers pounced.
Belton opened the half with a pair of steals and easy lay-ups. Isaiah Acfalle soon followed and scored six of his eight points in the quarter.
Overall, eight Balers scored on the night as San Benito cleared its bench.
Gilroy struggled to find any offense in the second half – scoring 14 points – but in the third its only points came at the 3:30 mark from a Charles Walker three-point play.
No Mustang tallied double figures, as Christian Goldstein led the team with eight points.
The victory now propels the Balers into their game with Palma on Friday with first-place in the Tri-County Athletic League on the line. The Balers hope the momentum from the second half of Wednesday’s win carries over to Friday.
“It’s big,” San Benito’s Jacob Tonascia said. “There is a lot of momentum going into Palma. We really needed it. Against Palma, it’s going to be the biggest game of the year, obviously.”
Gilroy – 8 7 3 11- 29
San Benito – 6 12 24 10- 52