Playing from behind

Freshman Erik Nelson, of Gilroy, takes an elbow to the face as

Rams erase early deficit before falling by four to
GILROY – The Gavilan College men’s basketball team gave the visiting College of the Siskiyous all it could handle in Wednesday night’s non-conference game, but faltered in the waning minutes, losing 64-60.

The Rams started the game in a 9-0 hole, but were able to rebound.

“Against a lot teams that 9-0 run would turn into a 15-0 or a 20-0,” said first-year head coach Chris Shoemaker. “We did a good job of circling the wagons, battling back to cut it within two.”

Although the Eagles hit six treys in the first half, they were up by just two points at halftime. The Rams scored eight points in the final minute of the first half on a pair of rare threes by freshman Cheston Turner (10 points), including a buzzer-beater.

“He’s not a guy that will take a lot of three-point shots,” Shoemaker said. “All of our guys know that if they are open and if it is their shot, I want them to take it.”

Gavilan held two brief leads in the game. Both came on three-point shots by the Rams leading scorer Jimmy Herrera (21 points, 7-for-7 at the line). One gave the team a 19-18 lead with 6:54 left in the first, and the other put the Rams up 44-41 with 12 minutes to go.

The Rams came out strong in the second half and immediately tied the score at 33 on a drive to the basket by freshman Steve Silacci (12 points) off of a nice feed from Herrera.

The Rams kept the score close until the last three minutes of the game as the Eagles were able to pull away. Freshman Maurice Davis had eight points for the Rams, and freshman teammate Jody McAlpine had six.

“We made a concerned effort to get a hand up on their three-point shooters particularly on No. 10 (Matt Benson, who had a game-high 22 points including four treys in the first half),” Shoemaker said.

“They hurt us a lot in the first half on flare screens,” Shoemaker added. “We did a better job defending the three-point line, but we had to give something up. We didn’t contain the ball as well, consequently we put them on the line more.”

The Rams are 3-8 in the season, but are giving teams some fits.

“They’re scrappy and they’re tough,” said Siskiyous coach Ed Madec, whose squad is 11-3. “They’re a couple shots away from winning a few more games and having a better record. Their record is no indication of how tough they were. We barely squeazed it out with a four-point lead.”

Shoemaker knew coming into the game that his squad would have to do the little things to stay in the game.

“We did a lot of little things, but we didn’t do enough to win though,” Shoemaker said. “In each half there were two or three possessions where we had a chance to make a play. Those came back to haunt us. In both halves, we had a two or three-minute span where we allowed them to make little runs.”

The College of the Sisiyous are ranked No. 6 in Northern California and No. 12 in the state. The team was ranked as high as No. 2 in Northern California earlier in the season.

“I think it is great for our kids because they are finally understanding that we can play win anybody,” Shoemaker said. “I think they are also understanding that it is OK to play our style of basketball. We don’t have to score 100 every night. We can play games in the 60s and be pretty effective.”

The Rams remaining preseason schedule doesn’t get any easier before league starts the third week of January. The Rams will compete in the Mendocino Tournament in Ukiah this weekend before facing De Anza at home Tuesday night as part of a doubleheader after the women’s game.

“We’re definitely getting better,” Shoemaker said. “If we continue to improve, we will be right there come January. We will be a tough draw for somebody. I would be very surprised if we are not competitive in any of the games.”