By Austin Green
Forward Sattwick Banerjee scored seven points in the fourth quarter and had the game-winning putback layup as time expired, giving Burbank High School a 70-68 victory over Fairfax Shalhevet High in the Bulldogs’ first game of the 2021 season — and their first in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the game tied and the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, Banerjee perfectly read a contested three-point heave from teammate Elmer Reyes, streaking down the baseline to grab the rebound and, in one motion, toss up a reverse layup for the win.
“I saw the key clear out and was like, ‘Oh, shoot, what would happen if he airballs?’ So I [went in for the rebound] just in case,” Banerjee said. “It came right into my hands and I laid it up.”
Banerjee’s shot allowed Burbank to survive a furious Shalhevet rally led by star forward Ze’ev Remer, who finished with a game-high 43 points. Remer had all 14 of the Firehawks’ points on 4 of 7 shooting in the fourth quarter, even as the Bulldogs aggressively double-teamed him. He finished 15 for 34 from the field and 12 for 15 from the free throw line, while the rest of his teammates had only 28 shot attempts combined.
But Burbank’s stars showed up as well, as Reyes and fellow veteran guard Vartan Avetisyan combined for 45 points. Avetisyan led the Bulldogs with 23 points, going 9 for 18 from the field, 2 for 3 from deep.
Reyes had 22 points on 6 for13 shooting including 5 for 10 from three-point range. He did most of his damage in the first half, racking up 16 points by halftime after making his first four three-point attempts. That allowed the Bulldogs to pull ahead, and Burbank led by as many as 12 early in the second quarter.
But the Firehawks never let the home team pull away as Remer and teammate Jacob Pofsky combined for 22 points in the second quarter alone. Remer then fully took over in the second half, flummoxing defenders with his post moves and leaving Bulldogs head coach Sid Cooke visibly frustrated on the sidelines as Burbank’s lead evaporated.
“We were kind of scrambling, we weren’t paying attention,” Cooke said. “I’ll take the win, but it wasn’t a good win as far as performing and executing.”
Banerjee finished with seven points, all of which came in the final period. He also had two key blocks of Remer during the fourth quarter, helping keep the Bulldogs in it before seizing on his opportunity to become the hero.
“He’s our future,” Cooke said. “I had a hunch to put him in. He’s gonna do great things for us.”
The Bulldogs also got scoring contributions from Zachary Brown (nine points, 4-8 shooting), Phoenix Hoseley (four points), Ruben Karakulyan (three) and Armen Nazaryan (two).
Burbank started its season particularly late, even by current CIF standards due to several coronavirus-related game cancellations.