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The Hawks men’s basketball. team’s best chance at a critical win on Friday, Feb. 16, over rival Chabot, the 20th-ranked junior college team in California, came down to freshman guard Elijah Mobley in the final minute.

His twin brother, guard Eliot Mobley, began the possession at the top of the key with the score tied at 67 and some 50 seconds remaining. He wanted to get the ball in the post to sophomore guard Alex Martin, the Hawks’ leading scorer who’d already lit up Chabot for 22 points. But the Gladiators’ defense stayed compact, packing the paint, forcing Las Positas to pass along the perimeter. With the shot clock about to expire, the grenade made its way to Elijah Mobley, the Hawks’ best 3-point shooter who had found some space in the left wing. 

With a Chabot defender racing towards him, Mobley rose quickly to take advantage of the small window of opportunity. A few elements made this shot difficult. The pressure of the moment. The defender charging at him. The fact that Mobley has been ice cold from three since making 8 of 11 three games ago. He missed his first eight attempts from behind the arc Friday. But if he made this one, the Hawks’ would be in the driver’s seat for perhaps their biggest win of the year. If he made this one, Las Positas’ postseason hopes would get a major boost.

He didn’t. The ball banked off the right side of the backboard, missing the entire rim. Shot clock violation. It would be an omen of how close the Hawks came, but how in the end they just couldn’t get it down.

Las Positas did manage a clutch defensive stop to force overtime. But that only delayed the inevitable. The Gladiators completely dominated the overtime period. The Hawks managed one point in the first four and a half minutes of overtime and lost 78-72, suffering another close defeat in Coast Conference-North.

Freshman guard Elijah Mobley, the Hawks’ best 3-point shooter, had a chance to give Las Positas the lead late. But he went 0-for-11 from 3 in the Hawks’ 78-72 overtime loss. (Photo by Jakob Arnarsson/ The Express)

Chabot (20-7, 8-3) snapped the Hawks’ three-game winning streak. Las Positas (16-10, 3-7) once again came up short as their struggles in close games and in Conference continued. Missed free throws, turnovers and poor execution doomed them again. The Hawks were 14 of 25 on free throws. Martin and Elijah Mobley combined to miss four in overtime. In a physical and emotional rivalry game, poise proved to be the difference. Chabot simply had more.

Martin finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. He was aggressive the whole game, constantly putting defenders on their heels and looking to play physically inside the paint.

Elijah Mobley had 15 points and 10 rebounds. But he struggled shooting the ball. He missed 20 of his 27 shots, including all 11 of his 3-pointers.

The Hawks as a team were just 2 of 18 from three. In their 16 wins, they averaged just shy of six made 3-pointers.

“I didn’t anticipate us not shooting as well,” Coach James Giacomazzi said. “I mean, we didn’t shoot very well at all. … Obviously, the free throws were supercritical. I thought we defended pretty well, rebounded okay, for the most part, but we just weren’t clean enough on both sides to pull it out tonight.”

During the non-conference schedule, the Hawks were good in close games. But only three of their first 16 non-conference games were within five points. The Hawks won all of them. Add to that a double-overtime win over Siskiyous back in November and Las Positas was undefeated in games that came down to the wire.

But the loaded Coast Conference-South has proven to be a different beast. The Hawks are now 2-4 in Conference games decided by five points or fewer. Add the overtime loss to Chabot and the Hawks have five nail-biting losses. If Las Positas had just won two of those five heartbreaks, they’d be in the top half of the Conference instead of the bottom.

For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Hawks will finish with a losing record in Conference.

Up next: at City College of San Francisco, ranked No. 3 in California and riding an eight-game win streak. The Hawks close the regular season at home against San Mateo, who rallied in the second half to narrowly beat visiting Las Positas back on Jan. 31.

“It’s tough,” Giacomazzi said, “Sometimes the balls gonna go in and sometimes the balls not gonna go in. You focus on how was your effort? Your attitude? Did you collapse or stay together? And for the most part, I think we did okay. It was an emotional and physical game, but I thought we were composed within ourselves.”

These are hard lessons being learned for the Hawks’ young core. Three of the Hawks’ four leading scorers — the Mobley twins and Sterling McClanahan — are freshmen. As is Mecca Okereke, who took over a starting forward spot five games ago. Miles Lawrence, Myles Clayton and Donovan Saiyad give the Hawks seven freshmen in their rotation.

The Hawks were forced to rely on their young players as Chabot keyed in on Martin. He played the entire game, which probably led to fatigue down the stretch. Martin was 9 of 16 from the field (56.3%). But the rest of the Hawks were 19 of 54 shooting (35.2 %).

Defensively, the Hawks had their hands full with the Gladiators guard duo of freshman Marcellus Edwards and sophomore Zach Broadous. 

Broadous, Chabot’s leading scorer, finished with 23 points. The Hawks held Noah Thomas, Chabot’s second-leading scorer, to just 12 points. But Edwards made up the difference with a career-high 25 points. He was 14-for-14 from the free throw line.

“Every game is really challenging,” Giacomazzi said. “There are really good teams in our league and I think you gotta kind of learn sometimes the hard way that every possession is really important. Like a basket that you might give up on one end that you didn’t maybe maximize your effort or you didn’t do something tactically like we were supposed to. Those will add up – and same thing on the offensive end.

“We just gotta learn that every possession on offense and defense could be the difference of winning or losing.”

Francis Kennedy is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him on X, formally Twitter  @FRANCISK16571.

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