The Hawks came into the season ranked the 3rd best community college in the state of California. The team started out very strong going 10-4 in the pre- season and 3-0 through the first three games of conference play.
Since then, the team has reached a rough patch going 4-3 in their last seven games. Inconsistency has plagued them throughout the middle half of the season as the team has lost key games and escaped some big upsets. With the amount of talent on the team, the Hawks should be in the conversation for competing for the state championship, not fighting with the middle of the pack teams for playoff contention. To reach their full potential for this season, playing with more consistency and fire will be the deciding factor for the Hawks.
The Hawks had high expectations for the season, but have dropped off since the start of the season. According to CCCMBCA’s preseason poll they came into the season ranked third, but haven’t been back in the top ten since Nov. 18.
A trend throughout the Hawks’ losses are that teams are willing to go to a zone defense to limit the Hawks’ inside attack. The Hawks have size and athleticism and attack the basket very well. Sophomores Michael Hayes and Wesley Burse get a lot of their points in by attacking the basket and posting up on the block.
As of late, teams have dared the Hawks to shoot from the outside and to a certain extent it has worked. The team has shot 34.5% from behind the arc in the last six games, compared to 38.6% through their first three conference games.
Mid-game adjustments have also been a problem for the team. In games against Ohlone and Chabot, the Hawks were leading at the half, but lost those leads when the second half started.
The Hawks would have momentum or a sizable lead, but would let the opposing team stick around and come back in the game instead of putting the game away. One reason for this has been the lack of discipline in sticking to the game plan, a sentiment echoed by Hayes throughout the season.
“We went away from everything we practiced on,” Hayes said after a loss to Chabot on January 17. “The other team played harder tonight.”
Hayes has also said that the team’s biggest problems are keeping consistent throughout games and going away from what is working. Through the last six games, the Hawks have come out of the halftime break going away from the game plan which has cost them. The team would then either have to play from behind or work extra hard to keep a lead.
“It’s almost like we need to get punched in the mouth for us to be ready to play,” said associate head coach Jordan Whittenburg.
In the game against Foothill College, the team led by as much as 11 in the second half. The Hawks seemed to have a lot of momentum until mental mistakes doomed them on both ends of the floor leading to Foothill stealing the game in the final minutes.
Through the turbulence, there is a lot to be learned from each game. Coach James Giacomazzi has been going deeper into his rotation to find players who can contribute on any given night. That will be important come playoff time as the bench play will be an x-factor in big games. Giacomazzi has found contributions from every player thus far this season. Players like freshman point guard Nikko Echalas and sophomore shooting guard Tyler Langowski have provided an offensive spark for the team when needed. Sophomore guard Isaiah Abdul and sophomore forward Michael Moore provide defensive intensity off the bench. Through their struggles, Giacomazzi said he doesn’t give much thought to rankings at this point in the season.
“We’re not too concerned about the ranking right now,” Giacomazzi said. “There’s still four games left and a lot to play for. At this point we’re more concerned about who we’re going to play and if we’re playing our best basketball.”
The team has high expectations this year that they’re striving to accomplish. The Hawks have the talent and coaching to compete with anybody in the state, but consistent play will be the key to winning a state championship. The Hawks will be a tough team to beat come playoff time if they can figure out how to elevate their play going into the postseason.
Nathan Canilao is the sports editor of The Express. Follow him @nathancanilao.