Santa Rosa, Calif. – The Las Positas College men’s basketball team suffered post-season defeat at the hands of Santa Rosa for the second year running as the Hawks bowed out in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) playoffs on Friday, Mar. 1, 2019.
The Hawks got off to a sloppy start, gifting Santa Rosa the ball on numerous occasions with their turnovers in the opening minutes. Coach James Giacomazzi’s men managed to stay in the game though through resilient defense and by paying careful attention to the Santa Rosa star Skylar Chavez, limiting him to just 12-points at the half.
The Hawks stayed within striking distance despite their early struggles thanks to an effective start from Wesley Burse, who got five points on the board early to keep the Hawks in the game until star guard Michael Hayes joined in on the action.
Hayes didn’t get his first basket until the five-minute mark in the first half, but once he saw the ball go down, he followed it up with three more, including a three, to bring his tally up to nine points at halftime.
While playing some good basketball throughout the first half, the Hawks looked set to experience some adversity as Hayes was later forced to sit out a significant part of the half with two fouls.
Sophomore guard Goose Persin had other ideas though as he entered the game and immediately went 3-3 from beyond the arc, 4-5 overall, notching up 12 points at the half and at one point guiding the Hawks to a 10-point lead.
The Hawks’ urgency on the defensive end and efficiency on offense left the game wide open at the half with the Hawks trailing 39 to 43.
In the second half, the Hawks came out strong and carried over their defensive effort during a quick 6-0 run which helped them tie the game quickly after the break. Some key plays on both ends of the floor from sophomore forward Alafia Oluwsogo pushed the Hawks out of the gates and allowed them to gain some momentum from the get-go.
The game then turned into an offensive back and forth with Santa Rosa’s danger man Chavez gradually coming into his own and finding a lot of success and picking his shots midway through the second half.
The Hawks wouldn’t back off and stayed in the game as Hayes was able to find a lot more space in the second period and Goose Persin continued to deliver with his hot hand from beyond the arc. Persin finished the game with 18 points after adding two more long-range makes in the second half.
Down the stretch, the two stars of the show began to shine for their respective teams as Hayes and Chavez traded baskets with the game heading into crunch time. After hitting a three a piece, Chavez converted twice at the free throw line, and Hayes came right back down the other end with a flashy Euro step to tie the game at 75-75 with fewer than five minutes to go.
The momentum was shifting between the two teams on each possession, but eventually it was claimed by the hosts from Santa Rosa as they made some crucial defensive plays and went on a 9-0 run before Giacomazzi was forced to take a timeout with about a minute remaining.
That run ended up being the decisive factor in what was a very close game for the best part of the 40 minutes. The Hawks were not able to get the ball back into Michael Hayes’ hands or knock down any more attempts in the final minute and suffered defeat in the first round of the playoffs for the second time in as many years.
The game finished Santa Rosa 88, LPC 75. Chavez put up 27 points for the hosts while Hayes poured in 25 points for the Hawks.
After the game, Giacomazzi expressed his satisfaction with his team’s performance despite the defeat and explained that the loss came down to small details that ended up going against his side and the solid defensive shift that was put in by Santa Rosa down the stretch.
“We had the right game plan, and I thought we played a good game,” Giacomazzi said. “We just messed up a few of the rotations. Those mistakes happened early and also late on, and those few mental lapses and costly turnovers ultimately cost us the game.” And also, they (Santa Rosa) just made plays. We tried to get the ball into Mike’s (Hayes) hands or into any of the guys who can score hands, and they just did a good job at denying us.”
Also reflecting on the game, Hawks standout performer Hayes, who finished the regular season third in scoring in the state of California, put the loss down to failing to remain calm down in the final moments of the game.
“We we’re kind of rushing our possessions, we weren’t really taking our time and we kind of felt like we had our backs against the wall and panicked a little bit,” Hayes said. “We should’ve been calmer down the stretch and worked as a team,” he added.
Despite being disappointed with the loss, Hayes did not forget to praise his teammates and the overall performance of the team throughout this season.
“Overall, we had an amazing season. We lost a lot of guys and ended up finishing the season with nine guys strong. Winning as many games as we did with just nine guys I think is amazing. The coaching staff and my teammates held their own, and I think we had a pretty good season,” Hayes said.
Despite the premature finish to their post-season, the Hawks put up some historic numbers during their regular season campaign. They notched up an overall record of (21-7), while going (9-3) in the stacked Coast North Conference. The nine conference wins ranked as the most in college history.