Poor start dooms Balboa in tournament

The story of the Balboa High School boys’ basketball team’s still-young season has been poor shooting early in games and Thursday’s matchup against Piedmont was no exception.

The Buccaneers began the game 0-for-12 from the field, and Piedmont cruised to a 59-46 win in the first round of the Cardinal Classic at Lowell High School.

On the other side of the bracket, host Lowell pulled away late against it’s first-round opponent, San Mateo, in a 47-25 win.

What was most painful about Balboa’s (1-4) early shooting woes was the number of misses that came off open looks, allowing Piedmont to open up a 19-5 lead after the first quarter. The Bucs actually outscored the Highlanders (4-0) the rest of the way, but could never overcome the early hole.

“We have a trend of not starting well,” Balboa coach Val Cubales said. “I just have a lot of inexperienced guys who get really nervous, but once they get warmed up, they’re fine. But the missed layups, free throws, 2-footers, it’s just frustrating.”

Balboa struggled early with Piedmont’s pressing, full-court defense, but broke the pressure frequently in the second half, led by the solid guard play of juniors Fletcher Brown and Jonathan Burnoski.

Brown had 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, while Burnoski was a outside threat throughout, finishing with a team-high 15 points, all on jump shots and three 3-pointers.

“I like [Burnoski] on the court offensively, but he needs to work on his defense,” Cubales said. “He is that guy we look for on the perimeter, though, and he has a nice, quick shot. We have four or five guys who shoot the ball really well in practice, but he’s the only one who’s stepped it up in games.”

Although Balboa battled back late, it was the play of Piedmont junior forward Max Elliot that sustained the Highlanders. The outsized Bucs didn’t have an answer for the 6-foot-6 Elliot, who was a force on the offensive boards and finished with a game-high 19 points.

Still, Piedmont coach Chris Lavdiotis felt the Highlanders may have eased up late.

“We had a couple of guys sick and injured, so we really tried to keep everyone fresh,” Lavdiotis said. “We just kind of lost our sharpness on offense after the first quarter. In any competition, you see this with adults and kids, you think a game is going to be kind of easy and then you lose your edge. That’s just human nature.”

Balboa will move on to the consolation bracket to face Capuchino today at 5 p.m. and Piedmont will face Carlmont in the championship bracket at 6:30 p.m. Lowell, also on the championship side, will take on Half Moon Bay at 8 p.m.

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