BASKETBALL: Balers beat Mustangs in league showdown

Gilroy's Tommy Cox (23) and Christian Goldstein try to block San

Hyram Miskin had 20 points, Jacob Tonascia added 15 more, and the San Benito boys basketball team defeated host Gilroy High 51-37 in Tri-County Athletic League action Friday night.

Gilroy High head coach Matt Tait must’ve felt someone hit the rewind button and made him watch the two teams’ matchup from three weeks ago in the Bob Hagen Memorial Tournament finals. In that Dec. 17 encounter, a San Benito 12-point cushion at halftime carried the Balers to a 52-37 win. On Friday, an eerily similar situation ensued as a big second quarter resulted in a Balers 11-point edge at intermission, which they sustained throughout the second half.

“It was the same idea as last game,” Tait said. “It’s a game where, because they opened it up early, then it was a battle, it felt like a two-point game the whole way.”

That perception didn’t play out in actuality, though. The Mustangs trailed 12-11 after the first quarter, but, despite their best efforts, were never closer than four points the rest of the half and nine points the rest of the game.

The inside, outside effect of Tonascia and Miskin aided the Balers’ eventual halftime advantage. Six points under the basket from Tonascia in the first quarter facilitated Miskin’s role on the perimeter in the second period, where the sophomore had the hot hand and converted four of his five first-half 3-pointers.

“Early in the game, we wanted to get the ball inside. I felt like Jacob did a good job of allowing himself to get open. And those early entries into Jacob really opened up our perimeter game,” said San Benito head coach David Kaplansky, who also highlighted the play of point guard Brian Becerra. “We were trying to find the open spots in the zone. We felt like there were some spots there, and Hyram is a good perimeter shooter.”

Niko Fortino, who led Mustangs scorers with 14 points, dialed up a pair of 3-pointers and Tommy Cox hit another in the second to keep the Mustangs around. But the Balers outscored Gilroy 23-13 in the tide-turning quarter to grab a 35-24 lead.

Neither team had much to say in the third quarter, and as a whole, the second half was an offensive grind for both. Gilroy limited San Benito to 28-percent from the field in the second half. The Mustangs, though, struggled at a 21-percent clip.

“We cut it to nine and we have three opportunities to get a put-back, those don’t go. We get an open look and that doesn’t go,” Tait said. “Defensively, I thought they played well. Our zone was great. What’s frustrating is they play so well defensively and struggle so much offensively.”

The lack of scoring doomed a Mustangs’ comeback. Christian Goldstein (eight points) hit a 3-pointer and then 1-of-2 from the free throw line to cut into the Balers’ lead 39-30 with five minutes to play in the third. Gilroy forced four straight stops on defense but neglected to reward itself on the offensive end. The Mustangs didn’t make another shot until the 2:30 mark of the fourth quarter.

“Matt does a great job coaching these guys. He brings several different defenses and in that third quarter he had his guys prepared,” Kaplansky said. “They took a lot of stuff away from us and slowed us down. But once we in turn switched to the zone, I feel like we were able to take control of the game.”

Miskin made just one shot in the second half, but it was a big one nevertheless, knocking down a corner 3-pointer nearing the end of the third that all of a sudden put San Benito back up 12 entering the final eight minutes. The Balers led by as many as 19 in the fourth.

“I think we played really well tonight,” Miskin said. “Our defense helped us out tonight.”

– Gilroy has scored 38 points or less in three straight games – six times overall this season.

– On Tap: San Benito (11-3 overall, 2-0 TCAL) has Palma at home Wednesday. Gilroy (5-9 overall, 0-2 TCAL) travels to face North Salinas on Wednesday.