By Meyer Gorelick
The number one ranked Rams turned in another dominant performance on Saturday, Feb. 29, slaughtering the overmatched San Joaquin Delta College Mustangs 113-82 in their opening playoff game.
The Mustangs managed to hang around through the opening seven minutes before the Rams began pulling away. Their suffocating press defense forced countless turnovers and led to lots of easy buckets.
Head Coach Justin Labagh continued demanding excellence despite a lopsided scoreline, and was quick to substitute players he found underperforming. The Rams were up 57-33 at halftime.
It was more of the same in the second half, as the Rams were able to speed the game up and coast to a 113-82 victory.
Sophomore wing Quincy Urbina led the Rams in scoring, finishing with 21 points, and jamming home an emphatic transition dunk late in the second half, as well as an acrobatic windmill dunk that ended up not counting due to an inbounding infraction.
“I thought we played really well,” Labagh said. “We cut down on some of our bad and tough shots that we were kind of getting comfortable taking unfortunately, just with having a lead in a lot of these games. So we cut those out, and scored a lot of points because we were only taking good shots.”
“I thought our defense was really good, we pressured and recovered and didn’t foul them,” he added.
The team improved to 29-0 on the season and has yet to experience a real close call aside from a rare single digit victory in their regular season finale where they only beat Las Positas by seven points.
Labagh admitted that lacking significant late-game adversity this season may put them at a disadvantage in the playoffs, but said he tries to account for that by simulating competitive end of game situations in practice.
For sophomore wing Emeka Udenyi, those high intensity reps against teammates have been paying off.
“We put the pressure on ourselves just going hard at practice every day, competing with each other, so that when we go in the games, it’s easier than practice,” said Udenyi.
He will be joined next season by City College teammates Darrion Trammell and Nate Robinson at Seattle University where all three signed.
Labagh said it would be “pretty remarkable” to finish the season undefeated for the first time in school history, but is keeping his focus on the next game.
Udenyi echoed his coach’s understanding of how big an undefeated season would mean for the program.
“If we could do that, to run the table, go undefeated and win the state championship, we would have a gold banner,” Udenyi said. “If we could do that, that’d be pretty awesome.”
The Rams play College of the Redwoods at home on Saturday March 7, in the third round of the Northern California regional playoffs.