The Las Positas men’s basketball team has reached a crucial part of their season as they gear up for an important stretch of games. Over the last few weeks, some holes in their game have started to show, particularly with a loss on January 17th to rival Chabot College 86-81 and an ugly win against Skyline College 79-71 in overtime on January 22nd.
The team’s biggest problem in these two games was consistency, especially as the games progressed. Rebounding and focus on the defensive end were killers for the Hawks as each opponent was able to crawl back into games they had no business being in.
The Hawks have high aspirations. They are currently 22nd in the CCCAA rankings and have a real shot at competing for a state championship. The key will be for the Hawks to clean up their mistakes, and end the second half of the season on a high note.
In the loss to Chabot, a lack of focus on the defensive end was apparent. Leading scorer and sophomore Michael Hayes was quickly yanked from the game in the first half with three fouls. Sophomore Marquis Davison, a key defender and scorer, also had two early fouls which cut his minutes short.
The game was high in emotion and both teams knew how much this game meant for the standings in conference play. Coaches were barking at referees, players were hyped up after every bucket and fans of both teams were into the game for all forty minutes.
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead in the second half. A fast break dunk by Hayes ignited the bench and gave LPC a nine point lead with just under 18:30 to go. This was the high point for the Hawks as slowly but surely, Chabot was able to climb back into the game however.
The Hawks settled for long threes and committed turnovers that gave Chabot the opportunity to climb back into the game. With 6:39 left in the second half, Chabot tied the game at 70 a piece. The Gladiators took nine charges this game, discouraging the Hawks aggressiveness in the paint.
Chabot held a three point lead with under ten seconds left in the game. A missed three pointer by Sophomore Tyler Langowski assured a Chabot victory despite great performances by Hayes and fellow frontcourt mate Sophomore Wesley Burse who each had 19 points.
“We went away from everything we practiced this week and they played harder than us tonight,” Hayes said after the game.
In the 79-71 win over Skyline, the team started off very slowly considering that Skyline had lost six of their last ten games and was outmatched athletically at all positions on the floor.
The game plan for Skyline was to simply pack the paint and allow the Hawks to shoot threes at will while being patient on offense and making a high amount of threes in order to minimize the amount of fast break opportunities for the Hawks. The plan worked early as Skyline went on a 21-5 run to take a 33-26 lead at the half.
The Hawks weathered the storm in the second half as they got more aggressive. They attacked the basket and got huge contributions off the bench from Nikko Echales, Tyler Langowski and Isiah Abdul. Each player provided a defensive spark and a solid option to score on the offensive end.
The Hawks led by three with under eight seconds left in the game when Skyline freshman point guard Walter Lum drained a one legged three pointer right as the buzzer sounded to force the game into overtime.
The Hawks regrouped and made adjustments in the overtime period to close the game out. Freshman point guard Lee Jones Jr. sealed the victory with six made free throws and a late crucial layup.
The Hawks narrowly escaped against a team who was inferior to them top-to-bottom. Their first half mistakes almost caught up to them but the team made the proper adjustments to ensure victory. It was a team effort the whole game with Wesley Burse again leading the team in scoring with 21 points and going 4-6 from the three point arc.
“We need to come out with better focus. It’s almost like we need to get punched in the mouth for us to be ready to play. We need to be able to sustain that energy throughout the entire game” associate head coach Jordan Whittenburg said after the game.
The Hawks have an important stretch of conference games ahead of them including a matchup with #1 ranked City College of San Francisco and a rematch with Chabot College. Each one important to their season ranking and playoff seeding. As the season progresses they need to figure out a way to stay locked in and focused in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Nathan Canilao is the sports editor of The Express. Follow him @nathancanilao.