OAKLAND -- It was a thrill for Half Moon Bay guard Jordan Cariaga and his teammates to play Wednesday at Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors.
And they felt even better about the experience after they walked off the court with a 51-33 victory over Westmoor in a key Peninsula Athletic League North Division boys basketball game.
"It was a great experience," said Cariaga, who led the Cougars with 11 points. "When we walked in here and I looked around, I was really excited -- stoked."
The teams played at Oracle as part of the Warriors' Play Where the Pros Play program. Each school had to sell 200 tickets to the Warriors-Grizzlies game played Wednesday night. Purchasers of the tickets were admitted for both the 12:15 p.m. high school game and the 7:30 NBA game.
Other high school teams have taken advantage of the program. Overfelt played Christopher at Oracle in December.
Westmoor played Jefferson there two years ago.
"When these guys graduate, they'll never play on this floor again," Westmoor coach Herb Yaptinchay said. "It's the kind of thing you can't match when you're an adult."
Though the game was played on a school day, limiting the number of students who could attend, both schools sent a full complement of cheerleaders. And all the people who purchased tickets were able to sit courtside.
The game featured two very different teams that are both off to great starts this season. Westmoor (11-2, 0-1) is one of the smaller teams around with no player taller than 6-feet. Half Moon Bay (12-2, 1-1) is one of the bigger teams in the Central Coast Section with two 6-6 forwards (junior Rico Nuno and sophomore Case DuFrane) and a 6-10 shot blocker (Owen Putz) who comes off the bench.
Size ruled on this occasion as Half Moon Bay led throughout. Nuno, who weighs 250 pounds, had his way around the basket.
"It was a great experience," said Nuno, who had 10 points on five field goals. Dan O'Connor, a 6-3 senior, also had 10 points.
"The rims were a lot softer," Nuno added. "I was able to see how NBA players have to be in great shape to run the floor."
The court at Oracle is 94 feet long. High school courts are much shorter, usually no more than 84 feet. The court at Half Moon Bay is only 80 feet.
Though Nuno and his frontcourt teammates found the rims soft on inside shots, Westmoor's outside shooters had a hard time getting jumpers to drop, a common experience for high school kids playing in a big arena.
"We shot terrible on 3s, in the 20s (percent)," Yaptinchay said. "Depth perception was a problem."
Half Moon Bay coach Rich Forslund exacerbated the problem for Westmoor by scrapping his normal man defense for a 2-3 zone that forced the Rams to take more outside shots than they wanted.
"It's very difficult to shoot well in these arenas," Forslund said. "You see a lot of air balls."
Westmoor's Errol Fernandez led all scorers with 19 points, most in transition. He didn't think depth perception was the main problem in his team's season-low point total.
"We just didn't bring enough energy, and our energy is our biggest strength," Fernandez said. "It was an awkward pregame. We didn't do our normal stuff. We had about five minutes to warm up."
The schools had a three-hour window to get in a varsity game and a frosh-soph game. The varsity game started at 12:15, but the teams weren't allowed in the arena until nearly noon.
So there was very little time to do anything but try to get ready to play. After the game, they had time to marvel at the Warriors' team rooms, quite a step up from their locker rooms at school.
"I'm glad we did it," Nuno said. "I'd like to do it again."