Dejon Burbeaux scored 16 points, and Andre Russell made some crucial shots down the stretch among his 15 points as the visiting Pirates (12-2, 4-1 HAAL) went on a 14-3 run after Castro Valley had rallied to tie the game 38-38 early in the fourth quarter.
San Leandro, which converted on 21 of 26 free throws during the game, nailed several free throws in the final minutes to hold off another desperate charge by the Trojans (9-4, 2-2).
Senior guard Dawson Johnson scored a game-high 28 points for Castro Valley, but the Trojans’ lone holdover starter from last year’s North Coast Section Division I championship team didn’t get enough help against the aggressive Pirates.
“It’s a key win for us,” said San Leandro’s Russell. “We worked hard and played good defense.”
“We were flat,” said Castro Valley coach Nick Jones. “We never made the one play to get everyone going.”
It looked as if that was about to happen after the Trojans scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to forge a tie, but the Pirates stopped it right there.
Russell said his San Leandro teammates were unconcerned, although they were on the road and the home fans had come alive.
“Naw, I have confidence in my teammates,” Russell said.
San Leandro coach Sean MacKay said, “It’s good to go on the road and be able to pull out a victory. We haven’t done that here (in Castro Valley) in the last two years.
“Guys knocking down free throws down the stretch are huge.”
Isaiah Thompson, who scored six points, made four-of-four free throws in the final 30 seconds after the Trojans had pulled to 54-49 on a 3-pointer by Kyler Knox.
MacKay said of the Trojans’ Johnson: “Dawson, No. 5, is battle-tested for the last couple of years, so he’s used to the pressure. Coach Jones does a good job of getting those guys prepared, so not only are our players going to be tested, but the coaching staff as well.”
The Trojans coach pointed to the “six real quick” the Pirates scored after Castro Valley had tied it up in the fourth.
“They had just scored and we had a fast break and we were called for an offensive foul (a charge),” Jones said. “That was a big play.”
But Jones said a bigger key may have when his team started picking up a bevy of fouls early in the third quarter, which put the Pirates in the penalty early on in the second half.
“We struggled on offense,” Jones said. “I think defensively we played pretty well until they got all those free throws in the third quarter.”
Both teams will be back in action on Monday, the Martin Luther King holiday. San Leandro will take on Skyline of Oakland in the Martin Luther King Classic at Laney College while Castro Valley will play Heritage at Antioch’s Freedom High.