It’s that time of year again. While most students are looking forward to winter break, the men and women of the Las Positas College basketball teams are gearing up for their conference season.
The season is still young. Though they have a few more games to go before taking on their conference rivals, they know exactly what has to be done to win the conference.
“Rebounding, taking better shots and taking good shots,” said Jake Contreras, LPC guard. “We’re a little undersized still and we’ve watched enough film to know that’s part of our process.”
The Hawks have won four of their first seven games, crafting a surprisingly successful start to their season compared to last year. This, despite playing their first season without their founding coach: the late Tony Costello.
One of the keys to getting better at rebounding is their defensive focus. Coach Lon Rork, in his first season as a head coach after leaving Diablo Valley College’s bench to replace Costello, said he has stressed defense in his practices and he’s seen an improvement from Day one. Their last game against Delta proved that.
The Hawks went into Delta, ranked No. 8 in the state, and left with a 78-74 victory. The upset, they seem to believe, was fueled by their defensive intensity.
“When we work harder on defense, we play better on offense,” said Uche Okpaluago, who is in his final season with the Hawks.
Rork said he was pleased with his team’s effort at Delta, the Hawks’ second consecutive win.
“The game against delta was a big win for us,” said Rork. “The fact that we went into their place and pulled out another win in overtime was great.”
Conference play begins Jan. 8 with a home game against the Hawks rival, Chabot. The newly reformatted Coast Conference North is loaded this year. Four of the teams were ranked in the preseason, led by No. 1 in Northern California, City College of San Francisco.
LPC is seeking to make the playoffs for the second time in three years.
“We know that any single day we are one of the best teams in the conference,” said Contreras. “We’re anxious to get out there and show what we can do.”
After a disappointing finish at the Cuesta College Phillips 66 Tournament, the LPC women’s basketball team wasn’t deterred. They responded by winning their next game against Hartnell, 70-51.
“The team is starting to pull it together,” said Shaelyn Lawrence, a freshman guard. “I’m pretty confident that when we get to conference we’re going to be able to take care of business and do what has to be done.”
Coach Clarence Morgan said that he sees the team’s progress while acknowledging they aren’t where they want to be.
Heading into the conference season at the beginning of January, Morgan says his team knows what they have to get done. They explained it as a three-point plan.
Step one, says Guard Gaby Barbalinardo, is to limit their mistakes.
“Since day one we have struggled with turnovers,” said Barbalinardo. “If we can just cut it down by five it’ll be a big accomplishment for us.”
Another problem spot for the Hawks is rebounding.
“If we’re pulling down more offensive boards, we have more shot attempts that we are going to put up,” Guard Shaelyn Lawrence said. “The longer that you have possession of the ball the better it is for you. Our guards need to do a better job, myself included, of putting a (woman) on the girl they’re guarding and just getting in front of them.”
The third issue, Morgan said, is nailing down their shots. The Hawks are averaging just 46.7 points per game.
In a stacked conference that’ll be tough. The Hawks face a daunting opponent in the 2012 Coast Conference champion City College of San Francisco (CCSF).
Hawks players said they are confident that if they can nail down the three trouble spots. They say they will be in contention with CCSF for the title.
“Coach says at the beginning of every game to play together, play smart, play hard,” Barbalinardo said. “As long as we work together and play our game, we have a win.”