Freshman Erik Nelson dribbles up the sideline with a Falcons
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Gav men’s hoops gives valiant effort in 77-61 loss to
GILROY – The Gavilan College men’s basketball team fought its way back twice in the second half Saturday night against West Hills, but fell in the end, 77-61.

The Rams (2-5) have already won more games than they have the last two years and continue to improve as the season goes along.

“The kids played hard today,” said head coach Chris Shoemaker. “I am not proud of the result, but I am proud of the effort.”

The West Hills game was one of the closest games of the year, Shoemaker said.

“We’ve shown that we can compete,” Shoemaker said. “But at the same time, we’ve shown that we need to clean things up if we’re going to move from a team that just competes to a team that wins.”

The Falcons were up by as much as 13 points in the first half. Gilroy High grad Erik Nelson arched in a three to move the Rams within seven with 3:16 left before the half. West Hills held a 38-29 advantage at the half.

A three pointer by Jimmy Herrera with 15:15 left in the game completed the Rams comeback and brought the team within 43-39. But it was as close as they could get.

The Falcons moved up by as many as 15 points before Jimmy Cheatum was fouled for a three-point play, and Maurice Davis came up with a steal and drove down the court to bring Gavilan within 64-57 with four minutes left to play.

“In the second half, we had it cut to four, but we missed layups on back-to-back possessions,” Shoemaker said. “Then they went down and hit a three to start a little run.”

The Rams found themselves down early in the game without the regular starters. Chris Primitivo, Rodney Holland and Alan Aubuchon found themselves in the starting lineup joining staples Cheatum and Herrera to replace Live Oak’s Jody McAlpine and Steve Silacci, who were late for the shoot-around before the game.

“We have to make sure that we are real solid away from the gym and we’re real solid on the practice floor so it will carry over to game time,” Shoemaker said. “We don’t play guys that are late for practice or miss practice.”

The Rams, who never led in the game, were down 5-0 after the Falcons drained one of their of five threes in the game and hit a jumper.

“The guys that started the game gave a great effort,” Shoemaker said. “So did the guys that came in about the eight-minute mark. The first group competed, and they played hard.

“They were smaller,” Shoemaker added. “West Hills had a very athletic group on the floor. You can go a long way with just effort and execution.”

Herrera, who normally completes the starting Live Oak tri-force, led the Rams in scoring with 13 points, but the Falcons had three players to outscore him. McAlpine and Maurice Davis had 12 points for the Rams.

“It was the first game all year Jimmy has led us in scoring,” said Shoemaker about his proficient shooting guard. “But that can be a little deceptive because he has been doing great things for us all year. We don’t need him to score for him to do his job.”

Herrera said the defense was what led to many of the Gavilan buckets.

“We were containing on defense,” Herrera said. “That carried over to the offense. We have to continue to work on making the plays and playing good defense.”

The Falcons (3-3) had a game the previous week in which they led by 14 points with four minutes to go and lost at the buzzer.

“They challenged us, and we were able to step up,” said West Hills coach Mark Arce. “I was worried there. I thought they would charge back and get ahead of us.”

“I was very impressed with Gavilan’s intensity,” Arce added. “They never give up. They play really hard. I got to see them on tape from earlier in the year, and I think they are continuing to improve. And I really like what their coaches are doing with them.”

The Rams, who don’t have a lot of height, have some trouble with teams like West Hills that has a couple big guys.

“We played a little bit of zone, but I think we are better playing strong man-to-man,” Shoemaker said. “What we did is cover down anytime the ball got into the post. Our problems stemmed from not their size so much but not containing the ball on the perimeter and failing to block out.”

The Rams will next play in the Monterey Peninsula College tournament. The first game of the double-elimination tournament will be Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. against Sierra at MPC.

“Sierra is a team we match up well with,” Shoemaker said. “But they play extremely hard. If we expect to win the game, our intensity level has to be sky high.”

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