By Ryan Kuhn
As one chapter ends in City College men’s basketball 2011 season, a new one begins.
Having won seven straight conference championships and reaching the state’s final four teams three out of the last five years, the Rams want to accomplish something they haven’t done in almost 50 years — win a state championship.
After defeating Chabot College on Feb. 12, the Rams were well on their way as they clinched another Coast Conference title, propelling them as the No. 1 seed in the Northern California playoffs.
The Rams will not travel through uncharted territory. Freshmen from last year’s team have walked this road before only to have the state championship slip through their fingers when they lost to Saddleback College in the title game.
Head coach Justin Labagh thinks this team has the tools to bring home a championship.
“We have a deeper team, and we have more leadership this season,” Labagh said.
One leader this season has been point guard Daryl Cooper, who has an average 8.6 points and 3 assists in the last four games for the Rams.
He feels like this season isn’t about individuality, but leadership and teamwork.
“A lot of us have all played together now, so we know what is needed to get done,” Cooper said.
Cooper won a state championship in high school with Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory his senior season so he knows what it is like being a leader on the court.
“Being a leader, you deal with a lot more pressure,” Cooper said. “I have to deal with all the emotions.”
Finishing the season with a record of 27-1 in the season and 12-0 in conference made this City College’s best season in more than five years, but Labagh the Rams have more work ahead of
“Everyone has to do a little extra,” he said. “Before it was about perfection, now it’s doing whatever it takes to win. We want to be the most aggressive team in the state.”
Led by Collin Chiverton and Jonathon Williams, who are both in the top five in the conference in scoring, the Rams have one of the deepest and most athletic teams in California, Labagh said.
“We have so many weapons that make us hard to guard,” he said.
Despite having only one year of basketball under his belt before joining the Rams, forward Yoan Zola has been an inside presence.
“He has been huge for us,” Cooper said.
Because they are ranked number one, City College will get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, as well as a first round bye to advance to play the winner of the 16 and 17 seed game.
One loss will send you home from the playoffs, so the Rams have to look at every opponent equally. But Labagh’s team is focused on one team in particular.
“The biggest team we have to deal with is ourselves,” Labagh said.
The Rams’ first playoff game will be against the winner of Butte College and Monterey Pennisula College on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Wellness Center.