Rams run with Dons until end

Nelson nets four treys in final rally before Gavilan men falter
63-59 to De Anza.
GILROY – If moral victories counted toward the standings, the Gavilan Rams men’s basketball team would be right there on top.

The Rams don’t go out easily as they showed during Tuesday night’s nonleague 63-59 loss to visiting De Anza.

“It is hard to keep talking about these moral victories,” said Gavilan coach Chris Shoemaker. “Tonight was another great effort by the guys, and I am proud of the effort they gave.”

Both the Rams and the Dons were ranked toward the bottom of the overall offensive standings of California junior colleges. But as of Dec. 9 the Dons were ranked 10th in the state in defense, while the Rams were ranked 52nd. The Dons (8-5) led by as many as 16 points late in the game. But the Rams kept fighting back to stay in the game.

“We battled right to the end. It was a couple of small plays that kept us from winning – block out, missed free throw, inability to get a lose ball,” Shoemaker said. “We had trouble working the ball inside. Our offense was a little stagnant at times. We’ll have to work on that this week.”

In an incredible spurt in the final two minutes, Gavilan hit five treys including four by Gilroy High grad Erik Nelson with his trademark shot at the top of the key.

“More than anything else was Erik’s defensive effort in the second half,” Shoemaker said. “He gave up some shots in the first half, and we had a little talk at halftime. He really competed in the second half. His defensive intensity carried through to the offensive end.”

Jody McAlpine, a former Acorn, led the Rams with 15 points. The game-high was recorded by De Anza Keith Mixakusu, who had 18 points including four treys in the first half.

Although the Rams are 3-11, the young squad continues to show improvements.

“We kept fighting back and fighting back,” Shoemaker said. “They had us on the ropes a couple times. I am real proud of our kids that refused to quit.”

Down by three points, the Rams had a couple chances in the last 10 seconds of the game, but couldn’t convert.

“We missed our free throws,” said De Anza coach Mike Riley, whose team missed five free throws in the final minute before making a pair to seal the game with 1.6 seconds left.

“Chris does a great job and he will turn this program around,” said Riley, who coached Chris Shoemaker for one year at De Anza. “When Chris played for me, we had a lot of close games late which might have influenced his strategies.”

Riley said his former apprentice scored more than 100 three pointers in his season with De Anza.

“We got to talk a little bit before the game and talk about old times,” Shoemaker said. “It would have been nicer if we had snuck up on them and beat them.”

The Rams and Dons meet for a rematch at De Anza on Jan. 8.

“They’re a good team and they’re going to be hard to beat the next time we play them,” Riley said. “People shouldn’t gage them on the win and loss record, but how they play.”

The Rams were able to make some adjustments in the second half to limit the outside shot.

“We tried to get a hand up on their shooters,” Shoemaker said. “We did a terrible job of getting through screens in the first half. We gave up five threes. We know that it the style they want to play. For some reason we have to be done ten points before we get into the game. One of these games, we’ll get it right from the tip, then watch out.”

The Rams got some solid efforts off the bench from guys like Rodney Holland, who had 10 points and five rebounds.

“It shows we have some players who have character,” Shoemaker said. “It also showed they are starting to believe in each other and trust each other. We are getting to the point where people don’t care who scores as long as we score. If that is the case, we will compete in every game.”

The Rams will compete in the Mendocino Tournament in Ukiah this weekend.

“It was a team effort,” Shoemaker said. “There are no superstars in this group. But that is fine, as long we can stay competitive. We’re not worried so much about who we play but how we play.”