After loss to Hartnell, Gavilan still in search for first
The Gavilan College Rams basketball team dropped its fifth consecutive game Wednesday in a Coast Conference matchup with the Hartnell Panthers.
Despite a solid opening half, the Rams (8-10, 0-3 conference) lost 80-72.
“This conference is the tightest I’ve seen it in my seven years coaching,” said Gavilan coach Chris Shoemaker. “That makes it fun and tough at the same time. There are no games you can walk into and expect to win.”
The game marked the fifth time that Shoemaker has coached against his former mentor Frank Carbajal, for whom he played at De Anza College and coached with at Hartnell.
“It’s always a lot of fun for both of us,” said Shoemaker, who is 1-4 in his career against Carbajal. “There’s always a lot at stake.”
The Rams came out playing strong defense in the first half. But Hartnell, which exploded for 96 points in its previous game, wasn’t going to be denied.
“We controlled the tempo in the first half,” Shoemaker said. “They were hotter than heck to start the second, and we had to come out of our zone. Once we did, they made some athletic plays. It is tough to play all 40 minutes against a team as athletic as this.”
Both teams had three 3-pointers in the first half. Hartnell had six on the night while Gavilan hit five. Shortly before halftime, the teams went back-to-back-to-back from the arc.
Ron Coleman’s 3 was sandwiched between a pair of Hartnell treys that drew the Panthers to within 35-30 at the half.
The Rams soon found themselves down 42-40 after another pair of Hartnell 3-pointers started the second. It was the first time since the opening minutes of the game that Hartnell led.
The lead changed hands seven times until Hartnell (11-7, 2-1 conference) was able to pull away for good at 48-47 with 14 minutes to go.
With 10 minutes left, Hartnell’s Yusef Smith fouled out on an offensive foul. With the departure of the 6-9 center, the middle opened up a little more for the Rams.
But Hartnell’s outside shooting also picked up enough to compensate for the lack of their big presence in the paint. The Panthers held a nine-point advantage until Gavilan sophomore Jon Morrison drained a 3 and then had a monster dunk from under the rim to get the Rams to within two at 61-59.
Morrison was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim after the dunk giving Hartnell a free throw and possession.
“I didn’t think I held on to it that long,” Morrison said. “I could tell there was a guy under me. You can’t just come straight down.”
Hartnell once again increased its lead, to 10, before San Benito High grad Broc Sondgroth hit a pair of 3-pointers. The second one came with about two minutes left, making the score 73-68.
But from there, Hartnell was able to seal the win from the free throw line.
Although Hartnell started the game with a brief early lead, the Panthers were forced to play catch-up ball for most of the first half.
Gavilan had a 16-9 lead at one point before Hartnell rallied back to tie the game at 16-16.
Gavilan once again regained the momentum and went up by 10 points thanks to good ball movement. During that Rams run, Hartnell got off several good looks, but most of them rimmed out. Toward the end of the first, they started to break down the Rams’ zone.
Hartnell was led by Chris Bailey’s 24 points.
“We didn’t come in prepared well enough tonight,” said Curtis Lilly, who led the Rams with 19 points. “We could have played better, and we should have played better. But we will come out a whole new team on Saturday ready to play. It all starts during practice.”
“The recent losses have brought the team down a little,” Morrison said. “It starts to rattle the guys after a while. But that is behind us now.”
On Saturday, the Rams will play at Cabrillo College, who opened up their league season a few days ago with a 55-50 victory over Hartnell.