Christopher High’s memorable season came to a close Tuesday night as Los Gatos made the trek to Gilroy and promptly spoiled the Cougars’ inaugural postseason appearance 47-31 in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division II girls basketball tournament.
Five days removed from their most complete, dominant performance of the year in dismantling Monte Vista Christian 52-20 in the Monterey Bay League tournament finals, the Cougars showed little of that spark against the Wildcats, who looked nothing like the team that went winless in the vaunted Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division.
“We just never really got into any kind of offensive flow. You could tell that we were flat from the very beginning,” CHS coach Heather Stewart said. “It was definitely not the same team that came out on Friday. It’s unfortunate.”
The loss halted Christopher’s nine-game winning streak. Conversely, Los Gatos (11-14), one of six De Anza Division teams – including seeds Nos. 1 through 3 (Gunn, Wilcox and Palo Alto) in the Division I bracket and No. 5 and No. 8 (Lynbrook and Mt. View) in Division II – to qualify for the playoffs, snapped a 12-game losing skid, earning its first victory since Dec. 30.
“We knew that they were better than the record,” Stewart said.
The two teams mirrored each other in defensive tenacity and physicality. However, Los Gatos found an antidote to Christopher’s press defense, pushing the pace up court. Meanwhile, the Cougars struggled against the Wildcats ferocious zone defense, which induced 12 first-half turnovers (25 total) and limited CHS to just 15 shots from the floor. CHS shot 27 percent for the game on 10 of 36 from the floor. Los Gatos shot 32 percent, but took 17 more shots in the game.
“Our defense has carried us and kept us in games all year. With the type of defense that we play, once we get a lead, you are kind of in trouble,” Los Gatos coach Xavier Cook said. “You don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to penetrate our zone.
“The biggest thing for us, playing Palo Alto twice, Wilcox twice, Gunn twice, no one can show us anything different. Nothing scares us.”
Los Gatos took a 2-0 lead three minutes into the first quarter and never trailed. It was 9-6 at the end of the first quarter and 17-13 at the half.
“We knew what was coming. The problem was tonight because of the mindset we were in, normally with a defense like that, you attack it. We were kind of going around that tonight. And I don’t know why we were avoiding the traps,” Stewart said. “We work on that all the time. We just didn’t stick to the game plan and execute the way we were supposed to.”
Buckets continued to be at a premium for CHS in the third quarter. Olivia Tabron kept the deficit in single digits, 27-19, with a bucket at the 3:30 mark of the third quarter. However, the Cougars went scoreless the remainder of the period and Los Gatos posted six points in the final 55 seconds to build a 33-19 advantage entering the fourth.
Los Gatos began to utilize its size advantage in the fourth, doing much of it damage in the paint with 6-foot junior Ellie Moller, who scored six of her game-high 19 points down the stretch.
“We really try to attack the post so that we can establish everything else on the outside,” Cook said.
The lead ballooned to as many as 23 after Los Gatos’ Jessica Quirke drained a 3-pointer with two minutes to play.
Hanna Tabron scattered 10 points to lead CHS. Olivia Tabron posted eight points, Merrett Brown had seven and Maddie Peterson four.
Not to be overshadowed in the aftermath of their early postseason exit, the Cougars, put themselves on the map, winning a program-best 20 games, going 11-1 in league and 2-0 in the MBL tournament to capture a first league championship.
“I’m proud of my girls. They never quit trying. They left it all out on the floor,” Stewart said. “I told them to walk out of that locker room with their heads held high, shake this game off and remember what they have done as a second year varsity program in this league and in this community. We generated a lot of buzz and I hope that we continue to do that.”