By Patrick Cochran/The Guardsman
Overcoming a rougher first half than the team anticipated, City College was able to win their opening California Community College Athletic Association regional playoff game at home March 1 against San Joaquin Delta College by a comfortable 74-46 margin.
No. 1 City College men’s basketball team knocked off No. 16 San Joaquin, the lowest-ranked team in the playoffs.
Though the final score indicated an easy victory, the Rams had to deal with a tenacious and physical Mustangs team that made every basket scored hard-fought.
San Joaquin preferred to foul and force a player to the line than to give up two easy points.
“We played way too hard in the first half to only be up by ten at half,” Rams head coach Justin Labagh said. “They were hitting some lucky shots that was keeping the game close.”
Even though they lacked size and ability, San Joaquin kept the game close trailing 29-18 at halftime.
The Rams showed their dominance in the second half.
Five minutes in, the Rams went on a roll that made it clear they were going to be victorious.
Rams sophomore point guard Dulani Robinson and freshman swingman Gabe Bealer were instrumental in getting the momentum going, with both players draining some big threes.
Rams backup point guard Vincent Golson had the play of the game during this stretch.
Driving to the basket on a fast break, Golson, not the tallest of players but with a very high vertical leap, went up for a layup against a Mustang player.
With San Joaquin’s “no easy baskets” philosophy lasting all game, the defender fouled Golson hard in midair.
Golson was still able to release a circus layup, which went in.
The referees called an intentional flagrant foul, so instead of shooting just one foul shot, Golson got to shoot two free throws.
Golson made one of two and City College kept possession of the ball.
The play gave City College a 50-28 lead with about 13 minutes left and was the proverbial nail in the coffin for San Joaquin.
“It definitely was big for our team,” Golson said. “Before that we were hitting threes and then I had the play. I will always take a hard foul to help us win.”
City College went with a smaller lineup than usual, with four guards often on the court against their smaller, scrappier opponent.
The Rams’ guards seized the opportunity with the team getting stellar play out of sophomores Chuks Iroegbu and Travante Williams.
Williams, who slashed his way to the hoop all game, led the team with 18 points.
“Travante had one of our best games offensively,” Labagh said. “He was just really confident out there and played well.”
Iroegbu, whose athleticism was instrumental on both ends of the court, chipped in 10 points.
“I played alright,” Iroegbu said. “I think as a team we did really well on defense and [defense] wins championships.”
The Rams next playoff game is March 5 at home versus Butte College.