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February 04, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 04, 2005

Missed fouls, 3-pointers doom Eagles Missed fouls, 3-pointers doom Eagles (February 04, 2005)

Fourth-quarter surge not enough to take Cupertino

By Scott Campbell

Despite enduring shooting woes throughout the game, Los Altos was able to pull within four points of Cupertino early in the fourth quarter on Jan. 28. But the Eagles would get no closer, as the visiting Pioneers scored seven straight points to close out a 48-38 victory.

"It's tough to take," said Los Altos coach Josh Waldorph. "We find a way to beat ourselves when we lose."

Los Altos (9-13 overall, 3-5 league) began this El Camino Division contest with the mindset of feeding the ball to its post players.

"If we can pound it in, get them to foul us and make some free throws, that's our best way to win," said Eagles junior forward Richard Rullo, who scored nine points.

For much of the first half, Los Altos struggled to find Rullo and sophomore center Brett Perrotta open in the paint. Even when Perrotta did get the ball, the normally reliable scorer left his team reeling by making only three of ten foul shots on the night.

The dismal free-throw performance was universal; the Eagles shot only 7 of 19 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, Cupertino (16-7 overall, 6-2 league) used screens and repeatedly wound down the shot clock. By controlling the tempo, the Pioneers built a 23-17 halftime lead.

As the flustered Eagles fell further behind in the third quarter, they began to settle for long jump shots, instead of working to find the high-percentage shots inside. On a night when Los Altos shot just 2 of 14 from the 3-point line, a comeback proved to be too difficult.

"We played hard, but we stopped getting it into the post," said senior forward Kevin Riley who led the Eagles with 10 points. "That's why we lost."

Riley, a transfer student playing in only his second game with the Eagles, did his best to rally Los Altos. With his team trailing 37-28 a minute into the fourth quarter, Riley hit a 3-pointer, and then immediately stole the ball and drove the length of the floor for a lay-up.

The Eagles' rally would be short-lived as Cupertino answered with seven consecutive points to put the game out of reach.

"We just kind of survived tonight," said Cupertino coach Craig Ellegood. "Los Altos came out and played very aggressively. They battled us all the way to the end."

The Eagles must win every one of its last games to stay within playoff contention. "It's do-or-die every game," said Rullo. "Hopefully, we can pick it up the rest of the way."

Los Altos, with its back against the wall, was able to regroup in time to defeat Santa Clara the following night. With three games remaining, they will visit Monta Vista on Feb. 4.

E-mail Scott Campbell at [email protected]

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