Cross-town rivals compete in last game of the basketball season

A Live Oak Acorn and a Sobrato Bulldog battle for a rebound during the teams’ Feb. 9 game. Photo by Savannah Brito

By Savannah Brito

Sneakers squeaked, rims rattled and the thundering chants of fans boomed through Live Oak High’s gym as the Acorns’ ace players faced off with their cross-town rivals Sobrato High Bulldogs for one last hoops hurrah.

Photo by Savannah Brito

The Feb. 9 game between b-ball athletes facing off in a high-octane hardwood showdown had the bleachers rocking. After nine league games and hours’ worth of practice, the players vied for victory in their last league basketball game of the season.

Before warm-ups began, seniors on Live Oak and their families lined up and walked in between the Acorn cheerleaders to honor their last home game of the season.

Recognized and congratulated by head coach Randy Bartholomew, he announced to the audience the seniors’ future plans and goals in their next chapter after high school.

The varsity teams began to warm up for the game and practiced their layups and outside shots. Meanwhile, the stands rapidly filled up with Sobrato fans sitting on one side of the gym and Live Oak fans on the other. Smiles beamed as they gathered for the game ahead.

Decorations supporting Live Oak were hung up all around the gym, surrounding the athletes and for spectators to see. Green and gold streamers were placed in front of the doorways and posters that read “Put them in the kennel” and “Go Acorns, go!” Live Oak students and families held posters to cheer on the seniors for their Senior Night.

The Acorns in their white and green basketball jerseys and the Bulldogs in their black and maroon jerseys psyched themselves up to prepare for victory in the Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa East Division game. The Bulldogs hoped to win this game in order to earn a spot in the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Referees in their striped uniforms gathered at the scorer’s table to check the status of the scoreboard, statistics, and the shot clock. They stretched and prepared for their role in the game.

Live Oak players Landon Dietz, Raymond Ramirez, Austin Jennings, Keaton Dietz, and Lukas Marcheschi made a powerful starting lineup. Sobrato players Vince Madriaga, Jayden Bejarano, Reilly Hauck, Trevor Fausto, and Trey Miller matched up against them. The game began and the adrenaline rose.

Cheerleaders shaking their pom poms launched into chants to rev up the fan’s energy. Sobrato shouted “S-O-B, R-A-T-O, Sobrato Bulldogs, let’s go!” and Live Oak yelled “Here we go! Go Green, Go Gold! Here we go, let’s go Acorns.”

Throughout the game, the athletes competed with diligence and aggressiveness. They fought for the ball, went in for rebounds, and hustled back and forth on the court. Fired up in pursuit of points, many of the players got in foul trouble, which caused numerous free throw attempts on each team.

The student sections on both sides were loud and psyched up in rallying for their teams.

Photo by Savannah Brito

With students of Morgan Hill yelling chants at each other, the energy pumping through the gym immediately generated a collective thrill to the game.

Bartholomew wishes all games generated the same level of passion a cross-town rival contest brings.

“This is something we’d like to have at every game because it gives our guys energy, especially on our home court,” he said. “It’s more than welcome every single game because we love the energy it brings to our players.”

Players also believe this type of energy is key for having a good time while focusing on the game. Among them is Reilly Hauck, a senior on Sobrato’s team.

“It makes it twice as fun,” he said. “You’ve got Live Oak’s crowd cheering for them and Sobrato’s crowd cheering for us. It’s a battle of Morgan Hill, and there’s nothing like it.”

The friendly competition between Sobrato and Live Oak helped to build a spirit of camaraderie and unity among the community, said Bulldogs captain Trey Miller.

“You don’t get to play your cross-town rivals every day. Some towns don’t even have cross-town rivals,” he said. “Everyone showing up brings Morgan Hill together, and the talking between the students hype the game up even more.”

While connecting the people of the town who share the same passion, love, and support for the student-athletes, it also brings together players of the opposite team who grew up playing basketball with each other, said Sobrato head coach Sean Tate. He enjoys seeing his players compete against their friends.

Photo by Savannah Brito

“They love it. They really love it,” he said. “Live Oak and Sobrato — these guys grew up playing NJB (National Junior Basketball) and then they split in high school. So it’s a fun game to come together and play against each other while watching good competition.”

The student-athletes who played together as kids in club basketball feel honored to compete against their friends, said Keaton Dietz, a senior on Live Oak’s team.

“You grow up with the guys on the other team, so you know everybody and it makes it so much more fun to be on the court to chirp with your boys,” he said. “You compete so much harder, making it worth it in the end. It’s so much more rewarding and more fun to be out on the court.”

Bartholomew could not agree more.

“These guys all grew up together so they know each other and how each other plays. We don’t even have to give a scouting report because these guys know each other better than I do,” he said. “So having that cross-town rivalry is something fun for the whole town to come out and watch. Whatever sport we’re playing against Sobrato, it’s always a great time for everybody to come out and support these two programs.”

The competitive match fostered a sense of unity among the residents of Morgan Hill, bonded  by a mutual passion, affection, and encouragement for the student-athletes.

Despite facing off each season, students and other spectators consistently gather around the court, witnessing the players’ dedication to their beloved sport and crafting enduring memories for the town to enjoy.

At the end of two exciting hours with every athlete filled with determination to achieve victory, players from both teams formed lines, exchanging handshakes as a gesture of sportsmanship. Above them, the gym’s scoreboard showed Sobrato taking victory, beating Live Oak 74 to 54.

The basketball game between the Acorns and the Bulldogs that night demonstrated unity within the Morgan Hill community.

Savannah Brito is a Morgan Hill-based freelance reporter.