After late-season skid, team will have to embrace a harder path in CCS

March 26, 2019 — by Siva Sambasivam and Justin Guo

After two straight losses late in league that are bound to hurt their CCS seeding, the Falcons will have to regroup and get healthy to have a shot at a deep playoff run.

The Falcons, who were originally headed for a top 2 seed in Division III CCS, will have to embrace their underdog status after a late-season losing streak.

Especially because of their Feb. 8 loss to the previously 1-21 Lynbrook Vikings, the Falcons will likely enter the playoffs as the fourth- or fifth-seeded team. They might still get a first-round bye if they are a fourth seed.

The Falcons were 14-9 headed into their final game Tuesday night vs. Fremont and no matter what, they will have a home CCS game. The game will either be in the first round or the quarterfinals, if they receive a bye.

However, their loss to Lynbrook was costly, and the Falcons are going to have to regroup and move on quickly.

Making it worse, the game was the team’s Senior Night, and the Falcons fell just short of an amazing comeback, being down upwards of 20 points early in the first half.

In the fourth quarter, they had just turned the ball over and were forced to foul the Vikings’ best free throw shooter allowing him to put his team up 4 with less than 30 seconds left.

In the remaining seconds of the game, the team’s senior captains, Hanlin Sun and Kyle Yu, took over.

With the Vikings expecting the Falcons to shoot a quick 3 and go for a foul, Yu took what the defense gave him, driving to the lane for an easy layup to cut the lead to 2 with 22 seconds to go. He then picked off the Vikings’ inbounds pass, giving the Falcons a chance to win the game or force overtime with one final possession. Then, after the Falcons used their final timeout, Sun hit a elbow jumper after to tie the game, and force overtime.

Ultimately, the Falcons were not able to turn their momentum into a win, and ended up losing 85-82. The Vikings did not make a single field goal during the overtime, with all of their 11 points coming from the free throw line, a theme that has been representative of their recent struggles.

According to Yu, the main reason for the loss, was the Falcons’ lack of defensive focus and discipline, fouling and sending the Vikings to the line at inopportune times during the extra period. Coach Patrick Judge has emphasized this aspect of the game as the one thing the Falcons have to tighten up heading into CCS.

Their defensive shortcomings were clearly indicated in the fact that it was the first time all season that the Falcons lost while scoring more than 60 points. Chu added that especially with the better offensive teams in CCS, when the pace slows done, the Falcons will have to achieve their goal of keeping teams to under 50 points to be competitive in games.

Sophomore point guard Tyler Chu added that their previous drubbing of Lynbrook by 17 points played a huge role in their lax attitude toward the game. This has been a consistent theme for the squad, with the majority of their losses coming to teams that won’t even make CCS.

“I think we were a bit too confident for the entire first quarter, and we just got too deep in a hole to come back” Chu said. “For CCS, we have to come into every game with the mindset to execute on both sides of the ball, regardless of who we are playing.”

Getting healthy

The team lost their best big man, starting center Patrick Li to a sprained ankle during the second quarter against Lynbrook. Li did not return to the game, and is expected to be sidelined for a week. Li’s absence will likely hurt the team on both ends of the floor.

“Losing Patrick is a huge blow to our team,” sophomore shooting guard Cameron King said. “Not only is he one of our anchors  defensively, but he also really settles us on offense whenever we get into a funk.”

In addition to Li, numerous players have been battling sickness over the last couple of weeks. The team’s  point guards Sun and Chu were both sidelined with the flu, against Monta Vista and Milpitas respectively.

The team hopes that they can get fully healthy heading into CCS, allowing them to return to early-season form where they were consistently blowing teams out.

“We’ve seen what we can do when we are all healthy and we all work together,” said Chu. “As long as we get everyone back and ready for CCS, we have a really good shot at making a deep run.”

Looking forward

The Falcons beat the Monta Vista 62-59 in overtime on Feb. 4. They lost to the Milpitas Trojans 61-57 on Feb. 6.

Their recent struggles aside, the Falcons home court advantage for their first game, should loom large for their playoff success, as the team has only lost three home games all season.

“Our team has been extremely good at home for the most part this year,” Yu said. “We really feed off the energy of the crowd to make our runs, and once we do, teams usually can’t come back.”

The comfort of playing at home will be extremely helpful for the Falcons not only to ensure early wins in CCS but also to help them gain momentum for the later, harder matchups on neutral ground.

But more important than the location of the game for the Falcons is the quality of the teams that they are playing. The team generally steps up whenever the competition increases, as evidenced by their numerous wins against teams in Division 1 or 2, including Los Gatos and Gunn. However, the Falcons have had trouble putting away teams that they should blow out, including Lynbrook.

“Most of our loses have come against teams that won’t even make CCS playoffs, but we tend to really elevate our game whenever we play good teams,” King said. “We know that whatever team we face, we can put ourselves in a position to get the win.”

It’s this mindset that gives the team confidence going into their playoff run. Despite the ups and downs of the season, the Falcons have shown spurts of complete dominance, against good and bad teams alike. They have never lost a game by more than seven points all season, and they are hoping everything comes together.

“We have shown glimpses of absolute brilliance on both ends of the court, and we’ve become more and more consistent during the season,” Yu said. “When it all finally comes together during CCS, we will be a scary sight for any team.”

Due to printing deadlines, the Falcon was unable to cover the Falcons final league game against Fremont on Feb. 12.