It was nearly eight years ago that the Acorns last won a game at Gilroy High. In 2004 – Live Oak’s second to last year in the same league with the Mustangs – the Acorns upset the Mustangs 44-34 in Gilroy.
Since then, the Acorns have rarely come close to upending the Mustangs, losing five times in the Bob Hagen tournament.
But after a strong defensive showing Friday, that streak ended as the Acorns defeated Gilroy 64-62 in the semifinals of the Bob Hagen Invitational.
“It’s an important win for us,” Live Oak head coach Brett Paolucci said. “We haven’t beat Gilroy in a long time in their tournament. We had some keys for this game and we executed. We took care of a lot of those things we needed to do.”
Despite holding an early 14-7 lead, the game came down to the very end for the Acorns, as the Mustangs missed a last-second 3-pointer to win.
The Mustangs now haven’t won their own tournament since 2006.
“I thought they made a great effort,” first year Gilroy coach Tim Jones said. “I thought they did a nice job in working hard and getting themselves back in the game that something we’ve struggled with all year. It’s something that we have to work together as a team. Hopefully, by the league season we will be thought it.”
In the loss, Travis Moulden, who hit three 3-pointers on his way to 20 points, led Gilroy. The Mustangs already received 11 points from Tommy Cox and 10 points from David Gonzalez.
But despite making a second half run, the loss was a disappointment for the Mustangs, Moulden said.
“It would have been great to get a win,” he said. “We really wanted to play Hollister in the championship. We didn’t execute in the end. We underestimated this team. We thought we were going to walk away with an easy win but it didn’t happen.”
The Acorns’ Luke Laguna, who scored 20 points, and Eddie Plascencia, who added 13 points from the bench, prevented a second San Benito-Gilroy championship game.
When Gilroy did make a run, the Acorns answered right back.
Only once did the game almost get away from Live Oak. Near the end of the third quarter, Gilroy built a 47-41 lead but Live Oak rallied for nine straight points to take the lead entering the final quarter.
“That was big for us,” Paolucci said. “The momentum came and swung back into our favor. We were right there and that’s what we wanted to do. We just wanted to compete tonight.”
The Acorns will now play San Benito in the title game at 4 p.m. in Gilroy. Instead of playing for the title, the Mustangs will play Aptos for third place at 2:30 p.m.
SBHS 51, Aptos 33
Before the San Benito’s Friday semifinal game with Aptos in the Bob Hagen Invitational in Gilroy, Baler head coach challenged Robert Henderson.
The senior forward was expected to handle Aptos junior Cole Welle, who at 6-foot-4 averaged nearly 20 points per game. And Henderson responded.
“I really took that to heart,” he said. “I wanted to prove what I could do tonight.”
The San Benito senior limited Welle to only three points – on 1-of-8 shooting – and scored a season-high 11 points to help the Balers propel past Aptos 51-33 and into the Gilroy tournament’s championship game for the second year in a row.
To claim their second-straight Hagen title, the Balers will take on Live Oak at 4 p.m. at Gilroy High on Saturday.
And it’s Henderson’s defense why they will play for the championship Saturday, SBHS head coach David Kaplansky said.
“I thought that was the difference in the game – his matchup,” Kaplansky said. “He grew up tonight. That was a lot of toughness he showed out there tonight. I’m real proud of him.”
He continued: “I think his defense got his offense going. When you play physical like that it gets you into the game and you get rewarded with good offense. Tonight, he had real good rhythm. He grew up tonight. That was his best game in a Baler uniform. Hopefully, we can get that consistency from him all year.”
Despite the final score, it wasn’t an easy road to the title game for the Balers, as they struggled on the floor – scoring only 21 first half points – and turned the ball over 10 times.
The Balers could never pull away in the first half; taking only a four point lead once. Only Henderson, who scored seven first-half points, found an offensive rhythm, as only Michael Breen (10 total points, four in first half) and Jacob Tonascia (eight total points, four in first half) made more than one basket.
On defense, though, San Benito controlled the game, never allowing Aptos to build a lead bigger than three points. And once the Balers grabbed the lead at 17-16 in the second quarter, they never gave it back.
In the second half it was a different story for the Balers.
“We were having trouble with our offensive rhythm (in the first half),” Kaplansky said. “They were a little too unselfish with the ball. They were passing the ball maybe a little too much and once a couple of guys anchored down that really helped us.”
In the second half, the Balers dominated the on both ends of the court, limiting Aptos to only 13 points. Meanwhile, Hyram Miskin found his shot from 3-point range, scoring eight of his 11 points over the final 16 minutes.
San Benito received scoring from seven different players in the win.
The victory improves the Balers record to 6-1. The Balers have won five games in a row.
“We all know our part,” Henderson said. “And our group has been together for awhile since freshman year. We’ve built that team chemistry. We are willing to make that extra pass. And we are not selfish. The chemistry is really working out there.”
Harbor 76, Anzar 35
Despite holding a 6-2 advantage in the early moments of the game, Anzar was unable to keep pace with Harbor and fell 76-35. The Hawks are now 0-7 in the young season.
Trailing only 19-16 at the start of the second quarter, the Hawks allowed Harbor to go on a 16-0 run to fall behind.
The Hawks had trouble moving the ball up the court, as Harbor implemented full court press to slow down the Hawk offense. Turnovers allowed Harbor to eventually pull away.
In the loss, Anzar received nine points from Alvaro Gonzales, John Moreno and Fermin Banuelos.
The Hawks will play in the seventh place game against Christopher High at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Pioneer 67, Christopher 63
After tying the game at 52, the Cougars allowed Pioneer to make a late run to pull away from Christopher in the first game of the consolation bracket on Friday.
Pioneer eventually beat the Cougars 67-63 to send Christopher into the seventh place game against Anzar at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
In the loss, Wyatt Rocheleau scored 20 points and Andrew Foster added 19 points.