San Benito High School captured its first Bob Hagen Memorial Tournament championship, pulling away from host Gilroy High in the second half to runaway with a 52-37 victory Saturday night.
Shots were hard to come by in the opening minutes of the game and the two teams combined for only five points after four minutes of play.
“We were getting some open looks, but they just weren’t falling,” Gilroy head coach Matt Tait said.
Penetrating with ball and finding the open perimeter shooters allowed the Balers to finally jump on the Mustangs, who struggled from the floor all night.
“We just started to settle down a bit,” said Jordan Belton, who was named the tournament’s MVP.
Led by the sharp shooting of Isaiah Acfalle, Hyram Miskin, Belton and Jacob Tonascia, San Benito began to chip away at the strong Gilroy defense. Three Balers scored in double figures Saturday. Acfalle led the way with 15 points, including nine in a dominant third quarter. Belton added 14 points and Tonascia ended with 10 points in the game.
Miskin finally got the Balers going in the opening moments of the second quarter with a long 3-pointer from the corner. Afterward, San Benito started to find others open.
“They are a tough team,” Charles Walker said. “We hung around with them for a while, but we didn’t make our shots.”
Tait agreed but said he was proud of his team’s effort.
“Against at team like that you have to make your shots,” he said. “We just didn’t and they did. In a close game like that, where neither team wants to run with the ball, you have to make your shots.”
San Benito head coach David Kaplansky thought the Balers’ defense limited the Mustangs’ chances and keyed the team’s momentum as the game went along.
“I was really proud of the kids’ defensive effort tonight,” he said. “They did a good job.”
After San Benito jumped to a 15-point lead in the third quarter, the two teams traded shots and offensive opportunities.
Gilroy’s Christian Goldstein gave the Mustangs’ a chance late in the game, as he started to drive to the basket and sink his shots. But on the defensive end, the Mustangs couldn’t stay out of foul trouble and sent San Benito to the free-throw line eight times in the final quarter – the Balers made seven of those eight.
“They showed some toughness at the end there,” Kaplansky said. “When Gilroy made that push, and we had to make those free throws, we did,”
Two Mustangs – Walker and Goldstein – scored 11 points to pace Gilroy.
Gilroy came into the tournament at 1-4 but victories over Live Oak and Pioneer on Thursday and Friday, respectively, pushed the Mustangs to 3-5.
“We are getting better every game,” Tait said.
San Benito, now 6-2, has now won five games in a row after dropping two of the season’s first three games.
“We played a lot better this weekend,” Kaplansky said. “We came together and it showed.”
San Benito hosts Watsonville at 7 p.m. Monday. The Mustangs next play in the Sobrato Tournament on Dec. 27. And open against Damonte Ranch at 6 p.m.