State Championship Looms As City College Flirts With Basketball Immortality

Sophomore forward LaDonovan Wilder battles two defenders from Santa Rosa Junior College in the third round of the CCCAA playoffs on March 5, 2016. (Photo by Peter Wong/Special to The Guardsman)
Sophomore forward LaDonovan Wilder battles two defenders from Santa Rosa Junior College in the third round of the CCCAA playoffs on March 5, 2016. (Photo by Peter Wong/Special to The Guardsman)

By Dakari Thomas

Blowing through the competition is something City College have become accustomed to this year.  

As a result, the push to a State Championship continues as the Rams have reached the Final Four of the California Community College Athletic Association’s men’s basketball playoffs after three blowout wins against three inadequate competitors: Sierra College, Santa Rosa Junior College, and most recently, College of the Sequoias.

The Rams started the playoff tournament by doing nothing at all, having earned a number one seed. They were well rested and ready to prove their illustrious position by the second round of playoffs, when they took on the Sierra College Wolverines.

“I think our players know the opportunity we have to win state.”

—Head Coach Justin Labagh

The Battle Begins

The Wolverines came out in a stingy 2-3 zone defense and were holding the ball after crossing half court attempting to slow down the pace. This forced the Rams into shooting deep, contested three-pointers and inconsistent scoring resulting in a 14-point tie early in the game.

However, the lack of depth on Sierra’s roster began to manifest as the Rams pressured the Wolverine ball handlers, getting easy buckets in transition. They also penetrated the zone defense by driving and passing efficiently to open teammates.

“One of their guys was suspended, “ Head Coach Justin Labagh said. “So we knew it would be close early but if we got our guys going and kept Sierra uncomfortable, we’d pull away”.

They would indeed pull away, scoring 50 points in a second half that included spectacular alley-oop dunks and highlight crossovers. Sophomore guard Troy Thompson led his team, scoring 25 points, while Trevor Dunbar, Shon Briggs, Jerrod Nodar, and LaDonovan Wilder all had 12 points apiece in the 96-65 win for the Rams.

“When a team goes into a 2-3 zone, it’s a mistake,” Sophomore guard Trevor Dunbar said. “Even though we didn’t make them pay tonight, we can with the shooters we have.”

Round Three

As Round three of the playoffs approached, the Rams next foe came in the form of the Santa Rosa Bear Cubs.  

The Rams came out hot, going on a 20-3 point run at the very start of the game. The insurmountable lead was in large part due to the shooting display put on by the Rams, as freshman guard Zachary Copeland shot 8 for 10 from 3-point land.

“We got hot and never looked back,” said sophomore Guard Troy Thompson. “When we’re shooting like that, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

That seems to be the case as the Rams never looked in the rear-view mirror, locking up their 20 straight win 100-69.

With the confidence boiling and the pressure mounting, the Rams found themselves against a feisty opponent in the College of the Sequoia Giants.

Even as the game had barely begun, you could tell it still wasn’t going to be the day the Rams would finally be defeated this year.

High-flying dunks, acrobatic layups, and deadly 3-point shooting, all played a factor in the Rams jumping out to a crushing 25-4 lead.

Sophomore Forward Jalen Canty gave a helping hand in lowering the opposition’s confidence with repeated, thunderous blocks off of the backboard.

“When we can make big plays like that and limit their scoring, I think it starts to get in the other team’s heads,” said Canty.

The competition never got much closer as even when the Giants were able to score, they could not stop the Rams who saw five of their players scoring in double figures as they won in undramatic fashion 84-46.

As the Rams continue to ride there season’s momentum to a 30-1 record in the midst of a championship run, Coach Labagh is very confident but doesn’t want his team getting complacent down the stretch.

“I think our players know the opportunity we have to win state,” Labagh said. “I just don’t want them to think it’s guaranteed. Every team we play is going to give us their best shot.”

The Rams will now face off against the third seeded Chaffey College Panthers in the Final Four matchup.

If what we have seen from City College is any indication to what is in coming future, the State Championship is imminent.

Contact the reporter 

Send an email to: Dakari Thomas


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