The Las Positas men’s basketball team went 20-9 this season while going 10-4 in conference play. The team had big wins against Chabot, Foothill and Siskiyous which propelled them to a playoff spot.
Against Chabot on Feb. 12, the Hawks won a close game 84-80. They beat their district rival and added a key win to their resume. But that wasn’t all.
Coach James Giacomazzi won his 300th career game as a college coach. Giacomazzi labels the win as one of the best highlights in his coaching career, but praises the players on the team for his success.
“Winning that game definitely meant a lot to me, but I couldn’t do it without my players,” Giacomazzi said.
As a team, the Hawks had visions of a deep run in the playoffs. Ranked No. 3 in the state in preseason rankings, one of the highest in school history, they had their sights set on a state championship. As individuals, several players had designs on continuing their college careers at four-year schools. As coaches, they wanted this to be the start of something, using one of the most talented rosters in the school’s history as the foundation.
Now, somewhere, they’re sheltering in place, left to process what could have been after what actually happened. The state title championship didn’t happen. Nor did the deep run. Instead, they were bounced out of the playoffs in the second round. After earning a bye in the first round, they came up short against Yuba City College, losing 98-78 on the road.
In the end, the struggles that plagued them throughout the season cost them. The Hawks were never fully healthy. The complete roster never played a game together, which led to inconsistency throughout the season as players were hopping in and out of roles and styles, trying to plug the holes as they came.
But even with injuries and inconsistent play, even with the disappointing end, the individual honors came. Michael Hayes was able to score over 1,000 points in his career at LPC and snagged California Community College Player of the Year. Three players were selected to the All-Coast Conference team: Michael Hayes, Andrew Mork and Wesley Burse. Coach Giacomazzi notched his 300th career win.
It proved to be a big season for the Hawks. And the taste of success they had this year has only added to the hunger for those returning next season. So maybe this season was the start of something after all.
“I took this year as a learning year, and I’m hungry to get back out there next year,” returning point guard Nikko Echalas said.
Despite the injuries, the Hawks put together a great year. They went 20-8 overall, while going 10-4 in conference play.
One of the biggest highs of the season was Coach Giacomazzi’s 300th career win, which came against rival Chabot on Feb. 12. It’s a big accomplishment for Giacomazzi as he has shown his ability to sustain success at the collegiate level. Players after the game made Giacomazzi a poster with a big “300” to celebrate the win.
Hayes had a great season to cap off his final year at LPC. He was able to notch an MVP trophy along with being an all-conference player. He finished his career at LPC with over 1,000 points and averaged 22.5 points per game for his career. Hayes made his mark at LPC being arguably one of the best players the Hawks have ever produced.
“He’s definitely in the top three players I’ve coached. I think he has a real chance to go make money playing ball after college,” Giacomazzi said.
Though the Hawks had a great season, the injury bug hit the Hawks hard ,and they were forced to make adjustments. Players had to play different roles throughout the season. The roster was completely healthy for only two games this year, and the coaching staff along with the players had to adjust in order to keep winning games.
The injuries led to inconsistent play on the floor. The team lost close games to Chabot, Foothill and San Francisco, and just barely won against Ohlone and Skyline, who finished near the bottom of conference standings.
The Hawks had high expectations coming into the season. Ranked third in the state in the preseason, the team wanted to live up to their rank. They only had one goal in mind: Winning the state title.
As the season went on, their preseason ranking dropped as they never got back to the top ten. The feeling of not living up to these expectations could sometimes hurt a team, but the Hawks used it as motivation.
They played their best basketball towards the end of the season. Though they came up short in playoff time, the team showed they were capable of withstanding adversity as the season went along.
Giacomazzi and his returners are determined to use this season as a building block for next year. The team will be graduating seven of its players, but the players that are coming back are more than ready to get back to work.
“I’m definitely using this year as a learning experience going forward. We had a good year, but we’re going to work just as hard to make sure next year is even better,” Echalas said.
Giacomazzi is eager to go through the recruiting process again, hoping to build a team that is as successful as this year’s team. The goal is still to build a team to win a state title, but that’s not the only thing Giacomazzi wants to do next year.
“Before it used to be about ‘OK what can we do to get wins,’ but now it’s about ‘are we helping our kids move on beyond LPC?’” Giacomazzi said.
Giacomazzi has helped 10 of his players in his coaching career go pro, but his biggest accomplishment is helping young men graduate. He wants to help his players succeed not only on the floor, but when the ball stops bouncing. Former players like Kameron Johnson and Anand Hundal can attest to this as they went on to go to four year universities after LPC.
The Hawks’ season was filled with many ups and downs. The team had to go through a lot, but their success could not be ignored this season.The individual talent of this team is one of the best the school has seen, and the accomplishments from the players to the coaching staff will be remembered for years to come.
The coaching staff will be bringing in new players as they look to have a successful recruiting season. The team will be different next year, but the goal will remain the same.
The 2019-20 season is one for the record books for the Hawks, but the team will be back next year with the state title on their minds again.
Nathan Canilao is the sports editor of The Express. Follow him @nathancanilao.