Rams are on a roll like they haven’t seen for a while

Demitra Kouretas drives around a defender during Gavilan's game against MPC on Jan. 18.

Take your favorite puzzle out of your closet and dump the pieces onto the table. Now you have 40 minutes to put that puzzle together as the box shows.
Unless that puzzle has only a few large pieces, it will be pretty hard to do. A 1,000-piece puzzle is difficult to finish by yourself in less than an hour.
Now imagine you have 10 people who each put together their own section. They each know where their pieces lie on the table and where they go in relation to the puzzle. That 40 minutes will feel like nothing.
And 40 minutes feels like nothing for the Gavilan women’s basketball team this year because, as co-captain Demitra Kouretas puts it, each person is a key puzzle piece and each person is essential to putting together a solid picture from a bunch of scattered images.
“Each person is a puzzle piece. Everyone has their job to do and everyone on this team matters. If everyone does their puzzle piece, then at the end of games the puzzle will fit. So we make that puzzle pretty nice.”
The analogy seems to have worked as the Gavilan women’s basketball team is in the middle of a resurgence that has taken the conference and the team itself by surprise.
“I don’t think we saw it coming,” said Jocelyn Mendoza. “We were 1-0 and 2-0 we were hyped about it. I don’t think it really clicked until we were 7-0, especially since last year we only won seven games.”
Gavilan was 6-19 overall a year ago, according to its website, and won just two games in conference play.
This year, the Rams won more than the previous season in its first seven games and are now 14-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
Gavilan is now ranked 14th in the North Region, according to a poll put out by the California Community College Athletic Association.
“It’s been a lot of fun. This team has kind of epitomized what I had hoped I could build in a team. Everybody is a threat. Everybody works hard. We have players game-to-game who put up great stats, but I think our unity, our cohesion and our depth has allowed us to pull out a lot of close games.”
Gavilan opened the year on a seven-game winning streak and hasn’t looked back.
The Rams have lost just four games heading into play Wednesday night at conference-leading Foothill and had lost back-to-back games just one time.
“It’s just so emotional for us, the sophomores especially, because we’ve been through last year,” Kouretas said. “It’s been a crazy, fun ride. I’ve just been so happy to be on this team.”
Gavilan returned six sophomores from last year’s team, not counting red shirts.
Gavilan has proven resilient.
Mendoza said one of the biggest things that helps a team after a game is how open the coach is in accepting feedback from the players.
After a heartbreaking loss to Monterey Peninsula College on Jan. 18, the Rams rebounded by beating De Anza on the road by eight.
Following the MPC game, Mendoza said the locker room was very quiet, but the coach eventually got input from the players and they talked through what they saw on the floor.
“That was a tough loss for us and I think the only way we got through it was just talking about it together,” Mendoza said. “And the next game knowing we can’t let that happen again. We can’t be defeated and we can’t get down like that. We just have to play like we always play.”
The beauty of the team is that on any given night, a different player can be the hero.
Forward Sadie Allen leads the team in shooting per game with 14.7 points, but six others had at or near seven points per game.
“We catch it pretty quickly. In the first two minutes, someone will hit a 3, Demi could hit a 3 and we know it’s her night,” said Eunice Kim. “Or Sadie can hit two jumpers in a row and we know it’s going to be her night. It’s the unselfishness of the team that creates points for our team. No matter who is scoring, even though Sadie is leading us in scoring, anyone can pick each other up.”
Of the Ram’s 18 games, nine have been decided by fewer than 10 points and five by less than four.
Gavilan is 7-2 in close games, including beating the buzzer four times.
“Honestly I couldn’t think of anything. My mind went blank. But I think it comes from practice,” Kim said of shooting free throws to win a game. “The practice you put in, the work that you put in, gets you that muscle memory and gets in that zone. The mental toughness that coach makes us do in helps us to finish.”