CUPERTINO, Calif. — To have a big game early in the season, when scouting reports are limited and teams are figuring themselves out, is a decent accomplishment. To do it in the playoffs in a third meeting with an opponent, at a stage of the season when both teams have thorough scouting reports and can’t pull any tricks? That’s something else.
Both Homestead senior Danny Brathwaite and Los Altos junior Jake Skaggs did just that on Saturday night, matching each other pound-for-pound in Saturday’s CCS Division I second-round matchup, but it was Brathwaite’s Mustangs who emerged with a 67-59 victory to prolong their season.
“I had to step up to the moment,” said Brathwaite, who scored a game-high 30 points. “I didn’t want to say goodbye today.”
Brathwaite finished with one more point than Skaggs behind a 11-for-12 free throw performance and also accumulated seven rebounds and five assists as eighth-seeded Homestead (11-8) jumped out to an early 14-point lead and never let the Eagles complete their comeback bid, despite going into halftime ahead by just a single point.
“It’s been the story of our season. We’re an extremely streaky team, so once we get the momentum, we run with it,” Homestead head coach Matt Wright said. “Unfortunately, the second quarter’s been our worst quarter all season.”
Ninth-seeded Los Altos (7-9) got to within a point again late in the third on a basket by Andrew Reilly, but Brathwaite followed with arguably his best sequence of the night, scoring a critical three-point play and following it up by stealing the ensuing inbound pass and scoring again to give his team a 46-40 lead. The Eagles trailed by as much as nine in the fourth quarter but had the ball with a chance to turn it into a one-possession game after a deep Skaggs 3-pointer, but could never hit the critical shot.
“We had a lot of shots around the rim that we couldn’t get to drop when we were close to taking the lead,” Los Altos head coach Trevor Naas said.
When shots around the rim weren’t falling, the Eagles still managed to create more and more chances to stay in the fight. They grabbed 26 offensive rebounds, with nine coming from Skaggs. In all, Skaggs collected 13 rebounds to go with his 29 points. He made his third and final 3-pointer with 52.9 left to cut the lead to 63-57, and the visitors were gifted a new lease on life after Homestead missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Los Altos was unable to cash in. From there, Brathwaite finished the game off with his final four free throws.
As clutch as Brathwaite was at the line, going 6-for-6 in the final 61 seconds, it would be easy to forget the contributions of senior guard Patrick Yeh, one of the craftiest finishers in the SCVAL. Leading 50-43 after a Brathwaite basket and Connor Kane putback, Yeh scored on a spin move, then answered a Nico D’Augusta basket with a drive from the left side to restore a nine-point lead, capping off his 10-point night.
Kane finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and he delivered a momentum-shifting 3-pointer after a Skaggs and-1 had cut the lead to 56-51. Rather than run the shot clock down, the wide-open Kane took the feed from Yeh in the corner and sank the shot, and even though Skaggs answered with a three of his own, the Mustangs would never let Los Altos get any closer. A Brian Sathy block and Brathwaite steal and layup made it 61-54, and another turnover and foul sent Brathwaite to the line, where he finished off his exceptional performance.
With starting center Kai Levenson out, Homestead turned to Kane and Omri Remez in the paint. Remez scored seven of his eight points in the third quarter to help offset Reilly and Skaggs, who combined for 16 of Los Altos’ 17 in the quarter. Reilly finished with 10, while Dom D’Augusta added nine off the bench. Nico, his older brother, scored just four, but grabbed seven rebounds and doled out six assists.
Ultimately, for all the opportunities Los Altos had, the early gap was simply too much to overcome. After a slow first four minutes, Homestead closed the first on a 14-0 run, with 10 of those points coming from Brathwaite. A Yeh basket and Kane free throw gave the hosts an 18-4 lead early in the second, their largest of the game. The Eagles battled back to within one, closing the half on a 15-5 run behind a Charles Sirey 3-pointer and seven of Dom D’Augusta’s nine points. Skaggs scored just before the half to make it a one-point game.
“Our guys really battled back when we started picking up full-court,” Naas said. “This was a tough year. It was a grind for everybody. We had two COVID shutdowns, so we lost 28 days.”
Between the shutdowns and Brock Susko moving to Texas with his family, the Eagles were dealt an exceptionally tough hand, but the future remains bright for the boys from Almond Avenue. Four of their five starters on Saturday were juniors. Defeating Homestead will certainly be a top priority for Los Altos next season after dropping all three meetings with the Mustangs, though none were decided by more than nine points.
Homestead will visit top-seeded Independence (13-1) on Tuesday. Should they pull off the upset, the Mustangs will reach the CCS semifinals for the first time since 2015.
When we get the momentum on our side, we get confidence and we just get hot. We start making shots, we make extra passes and we get to the rim. He’s been our go-to guy all year. Every team knows they need to stop him, and he’s consistently scoring. He didn’t even score in the second quarter and he still had 30. He’s as cool as ice. Nothing bugs him.”
“When we come together, that’s when the real magic happens. It’s not a one-man job.”
“It was our most high-pressure game. I had to step up to the moment. I didn’t want to say goodbye today. It’s unrivaled. Getting into a groove in basketball is one of the best feelings in the world. We have this mentality called H.E.A.R.T., and the A stands for aggressiveness.
No. 5 Mountain View 65, No. 12 Evergreen Valley 49
Yuval Hod scored a game-high 24 points as Mountain View (12-5) advanced to the CCS quarterfinals for a sixth straight year. The Spartans, who won the Division II title in both 2017 and 2019, also got 13 points apiece from Joe Brown, who hit a trio of 3-pointers, and Ryan Bahar.
No. 6 Palo Alto 45, No. 11 Carlmont 38
A Vikings team that’s struggled to find big individual scorers all year finally found one on Saturday as Aidan Rausch scored a game-high 20 to lead Palo Alto (11-8) to victory. The Vikings, who won the Division I crown three of the past four years and competed in the Open Division in the other, led 30-16 at halftime.
No. 7 Menlo-Atherton 56, No. 10 Los Gatos 48
After leading by just a single point at halftime, Menlo-Atherton (5-6) allowed just four points in the entire third quarter, took a 13-point lead early in the fourth and held on late to outlast the Wildcats. Spencer Lin led the Bears with 14 points and seven rebounds, A’Marion McCoy scored 13 and Connor Cadigan added nine. Anirudh Rao scored 13 of his game-high 16 in the fourth quarter for Los Gatos (10-7), while Arya Emarlou finished with 15.
No. 8 Homestead (11-8) @ No. 1 Independence (13-1), 7 p.m.
No. 7 Menlo-Atherton (5-6) @ No. 2 Piedmont Hills (16-5), 7 p.m.
No. 6 Palo Alto (11-8) @ No. 3 Santa Clara (11-3), 7 p.m.
No. 5 Mountain View (12-5) @ No. 4 Silver Creek (12-5), 7:30 p.m.