The location was different, with top-ranked City College of San Francisco this time coming to The Nest. The magnitude of the game was different, greater even, with the Hawks up to No. 3 in the state rankings.
But the second matchup between the NorCal men’s basketball powers played out pretty much the same as the first one. Once again, Las Positas started well, built an early cushion and took a two-point lead into halftime. The Rams offense responded by shifting gears, overwhelming a Hawks’ attack that couldn’t keep up.
In the rematch on Friday, Feb. 18 in Livermore, Las Positas was doomed by San Francisco’s 17-2 run to start the second half. The Hawks, visibly gassed and having no answers for the Rams offense, had their seven-game winning streak snapped with a 96-83 home loss.
It was a rare blip on the best season in the history of the men’s basketball program. Las Positas is now 23-3 overall and 10-2 in Coast Conference North play. As the Hawks wind down the season, coach James Giacomazzi’s squad knows it is right on the heels of the prohibitive favorites to win the state title.
“Adversity is a good thing,” said Malik Jackson, a 6-foot-6 freshman wing who scored five points, this after averaging 16.6 points the previous two games. “We’ve got to learn from this, learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones.”
The Hawks’ last defeat came at San Francisco on Jan. 26. They led 41-39 at the half, on the road, and stayed ahead or tied until the 13:15 mark of the second half. Las Positas went blow-for-blow with the best community college team in California for most of the game, until an 11-2 run in the late stages propelled San Francisco. The Hawks were outscored 50-38 in the second half of that game, losing 89-79 but knowing they could hang with the Rams.
It still looked like they could when they faced them again Friday.
Freshman Brandon Fisher, a 6-foot-7 forward, scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the first half. His basket at the 10:40 mark gave Las Positas a 26-13 lead. San Francisco got back in the game with the shooting of its backcourt. Rams guards Naseem Gaskin and Jamir Thomas each made two 3-pointers in a span of just over three minutes, erasing a chunk of the Hawks’ advantage. Thomas got hot from outside and took over. He scored 10 of the Rams’ last 12 points of the first half. But Las Positas was game, answering with threes of its own. Two came from sophomore guard Dathan Satchell, whose timely connects kept the home team in front. Las Positas led 43-41 at the half. Satchell finished with 17 points.
But the wave from San Francisco, which has now won 23 straight games, came earlier on Friday and hit Las Positas much harder than last time.
Before the Hawks could even get settled into the second half, Thomas had hit two more 3-pointers. The latter was a pull-up from deep in transition to punctuate a 13-0 run. In two minutes and 30 seconds, Las Positas went from leading by two to trailing by 11. The Hawks didn’t score their first basket until Fisher made one at the 16:48 mark. But San Francisco center Ezekiel Holman countered that with two baskets inside. Las Positas was down 58-45.
The Hawks started the half trying to get the ball in the paint to Fisher and 6-foot-8 big man Jordahn Johnson. That approach was not producing points against Rams’ 7-foot center Mezziah Oakman, who was supported by guards who collapsed into the pain. And San Francisco used the Hawks’ misses and turnovers to fuel their fast breaks.
Las Positas turned to Malik Jackson to settle them. Driving from the perimeter, he converted a three-point play and moments later drilled a pull-up jumper. Jackson, with a Satchell 3-pointer mixed in, got the Hawks out of their scoring funk. His pull-up cut the Rams’ lead to 61-55.
“We got a lot more ball movement,” said Las Positas freshman guard Isaiah Victor, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half. “We started swinging it. We got more open looks. That’s what let us back in the game.”
But the host Hawks didn’t make another field goal until for the next four minutes and six seconds. CCSF replenished its lead with fluid ball movement and attacking the paint.
A bucket by freshman guard Jorren Edmonds cut the Hawks’ deficit to 71-59 with 7:17 remaining. One thing Las Positas had going for it was the Rams’ racking up fouls. The Hawks got to the bonus early in the half. But they didn’t take advantage, making just 4 of 11 free throws in the second half.
Johnson, the Hawks’ big man, made one after missing his first three, cutting the deficit to 73-62 with 6:50 left. But the Rams pulled away again with two back-breaking 3-pointers, the fist by freshman guard Devan Sapp and the second by sophomore guard Ezekial Holman, his coming at the 4:43 mark and putting Las Positas down 80-64.
Isaiah Victor caught fire late to keep the Hawks in the game. He made three straight 3-pointers. But the Hawks couldn’t stop the Rams’ from getting to the rim. Gaskin had two of the Hawks’ three layups with the foul, each one dousing whatever hope the Hawks had left.
Las Positas was outscored 55-40 in the second half.
“Our defense could’ve been a little bit better, especially to open up the second half,” Hawks’ freshman wing Domonick Victor said. “We came out a little flat. They came out with a lot more energy. I think their defense was pretty aggressive. They forced us to take some bad shots and forced turnovers.”
Thomas led the Rams with 23 points. Gaskin had 19 and Oakman 16. San Francisco (27-1) has now won 60 consecutive Coast Conference North games. Las Positas was the last division team to beat the Rams back in January 2017 in San Francisco.
If Las Positas gets another crack at San Francisco, it will be deep in the playoffs. The Hawks play its final regular-season home game on Wednesday, Feb. 23 against Foothill (7-20 overall, 8-5 conference), a game that was rescheduled from Feb. 2. They close out the regular season Friday at Chabot (17-9 overall, 8-5 conference).
The seeding meeting for the California Community College Athletic Association is on Feb. 27, at which point Las Positas will learn its place in the NorCal Playoff bracket and first opponent. This will be the Hawks’ seventh consecutive postseason appearance, the sixth under Giacomazzi.