Left, freshman Tommy Sondgroth pulls up for a jump shot during

Silacci supplies late spark in Gavilan men’s hoops first win of
GILROY – It hasn’t happened in the last two seasons for the Gavilan College men’s basketball team. But this year things are different and, last night on their home court, the Rams showed just how much – rallying past College of the Redwoods for an impressive 80-72 victory.

“It feels great. I knew that our kids were going to come out and play hard in every game, but I wasn’t sure if we were going to have enough to get that first win, especially this early in the year,” first-year head coach Chris Shoemaker said. “I’m real proud of my guys and I’m real happy that we were able to give the home crowd something to come to watch.”

There was plenty of action to keep fans glued to their seats as freshmen Steve Silacci (team-high 13 points) and Maurice Davis (11 points) led the charge along with freshman teammate Jody McAlpine (team-high 13 points) and sophomore point guard Jimmy Herrera (nine points).

“This group, we jelled early. We just had a lot of time to work on our stuff, work hard in practice and we just wanted to bring that out and show it on the floor,” Davis said. “A lot of energy we had we wanted to transfer over from the Chabot game. We felt a little disappointed. That’s a great team, but we feel confidence in ourselves. We just wanted to bring that out and did not want to disappoint ourselves.”

They didn’t.

After trailing for most of the game – by as many as nine points in the first half – the Rams suddenly got a burst of energy with Davis, Silacci, McAlpine, Herrera and Turner on the floor. When Herrera hit Turner for an uncontested lay-in with 10 minutes left to give Gavilan a 54-53 lead, it was the beginning of the end for Redwoods – which could not match the Rams effort down the stretch. A pair of Davis free throws added to a Rodney Holland lay-up and a McAlpine baseline trey forced a Redwoods time-out with Gavilan ahead by six.

But even when the teams came out of the break, it was Gavilan pouring it on as McAlpine matched a Redwoods bucket and then Silacci joined the fun with a money three-pointer to make it a 66-57 ball-game with 4:50 remainin.

“I felt I helped out a lot. Rebounding started picking up. It went well,” said Silacci, whose presence on the court was the difference for Gavilan. “I started heating up a little bit. First half was shakey I wasn’t doing too well, but I came out in the second half started playing good. It worked out well.”

Things went well from then on as Silacci assisted on a Holland lay-up and then McAlpine hooked up with Davis for an alley-oop lay-in. Even with Redwoods matching buckets from time to time, the Rams could not miss – pushing the ball up court whenever they could.

“It was the defensive end. We finally tightened up our man-to-man defense and we did a great job on the defensive boards led by Steve Silacci, definitely,” Shoemaker said. “He was our MVP. Cheston Turner and Maurice, too, were awesome on the boards. That group really played maybe the last 14 minutes of the second half.”

Then even the charity stripe started to be kind to Gavilan – which struggled throughout from the line. Freshman Tommy Sondgroth – filling in for a cramped-up Herrera – hit both ends of a one-and-one to stretch the gap at eight and Davis followed with a one-of-two trip. After Herrera and then Silacci both drained one-of-two, Davis finished the job by hitting two foul shots to give them a 10-point lead with 12 ticks left.

“I think we 13-for-17 in our first game and tonight I don’t know what we shot probably under 50 percent,” said Shoemaker of the free throw shooting. “It’s something we’re going to definitely have to improve upon if we’re going to win more games. With this group there is no room for error. We have to get all the free ones.”

The Rams earned every bit of their first victory and evened their pre-conference record to 1-1 with a total team effort.

“There are no superstars in this group – which is fine. There doesn’t need to be. What it is is it just takes 16, 17 guys every night and, fortunately, that’s what we got tonight,” Shoemaker said. “This early in the year we’re still trying to put our rotation together… A lot of it is by feel. As we play more games and get a chance to look at some tape it will get a little more structured. But right now at least tonight in the second half I had to go with the guys that I thought were hot.”

Silacci – a Live Oak High alum who knew of the hardships at Gavilan before joining the squad this year – was one.

“We needed a win quick… We want the crowd to start backing us up. We don’t want them to think we’re a joke,” Silacci said. “Coach is doing a good job with us. We’re coming together now. All of us are friends on the team. Everything’s running real good right now so we’ll see what happens.”

Davis – a six-foot-three freshman out of Skyline High School – was another hot player down the stretch.

“It’s great. It’s great,” Davis said. “I heard it’s the first win in a long time and it’s on this floor so it feels good to bring that back.”

Gavilan returns to action with a Saturday road game against Mendocino College before coming back home for a Nov. 20 game against Reedley College at 6 p.m.

“Definitley now we have a sense of what it feels like to win and what it feels like to get blown out. We also have a sense of what it takes to prepare to win and that’s the most important thing,” Shoemaker said. “Mendocino is a good team. I scouted them last night. They’re a team that if we play with the effort we did tonight we have a good chance to beat them.”

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