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December 6, 2022

Tenacious ‘D’ nets 30-point victory

– After scoring only 49 points two days earlier in a lopsided
loss to Reedley – in which the Rams did not hit a field goal for
the final seven minutes – the Gavilan College men’s basketball team
returned to action Friday night with something to prove to
Point made.
GILROY – After scoring only 49 points two days earlier in a lopsided loss to Reedley – in which the Rams did not hit a field goal for the final seven minutes – the Gavilan College men’s basketball team returned to action Friday night with something to prove to themselves.

Point made.

A more intense Rams unit came out gunning and never looked back as they ran away with a 91-61 home victory over visiting Napa Valley for their second ‘W’ of the early season.

“We sat down with our team. We discussed how we can’t be embarrassed like that,” said freshman center Jimmy Cheatum, who finished with eight points. “Today and yesterday’s practice we were really focused so we were ready to play.”

With an all-out team effort, Gavilan began to pull away midway through the opening half and took a 43-28 lead into the locker room. Freshman forward Jody McAlpine led all scorers with 24 points, while teammates Steve Silacci (19 points) and Maurice Davis (10 points) complemented one another all night long.

“Intensity and defense was our big thing. Transition, all that good stuff was right there,” McAlpine said. “The first couple of games I was in the learning stage. It was my first couple of college games and I was a little timid. I kind of need to learn what it’s like. The intensity, it’s just a different level. But today I think was my breakthrough game. I think I’m learning a lot more.”

For first-year head coach Chris Shoemaker, the 91-point output was impressive but not as important as holding Napa Valley to 61 on the defensive end. In his first collegiate head coaching job, Shoemaker already has Gavilan (2-3) doubling its win total of last year only five games into the season.

“I’m not so impressed with the 91 as I am with the 61 that we gave up on the defensive end. We’re really trying to keep people to under 70. That’s our goal,” Shoemaker said. “Some nights we’re going to get 91 and some nights we’re going to be in the 60-70 range. If we’re solid on the defensive end, we’ll always have a chance.”

Napa Valley – which suffered an 88-60 loss to Hartnell College the night before – was never given a chance to cut into the lead as the Rams stretched the gap with each trip down the floor.

“I called a time-out with two minutes left in the half and I told them that the most important part of this entire game is going to be the last two minutes of the first half and the first three to five minutes of the second half,” Shoemaker said, “because that’s when you either expand the lead and break the other team’s will or you let them back in the game. I think we did a pretty good job expanding it and breaking their will.”

Coming out of the time-out in the first half, McAlpine sank one-of-two free throws before draining a three-pointer. Right before the half, McAlpine faked a long-range shot and found Silacci underneath for a buzzer-beating lay-in to make it a 15-point margin.

“At halftime, we were up by 15 and we knew if we didn’t come out strong they’re going to cut it back,” Cheatum said. “We came out strong. We knew once was got it over 20 all we had to do was run our offense and we’d be able to win.”

The McAlpine-Silacci connection was in full force to open the second half as the two Live Oak High grads demonstrated how well they know each other’s instincts on the court. Silacci penetrated and dished to McAlpine for a bucket and then McAlpine returned the favor. The Morgan Hill boys kept it going with a sweet dump off from McAlpine to Silacci to stretch the lead to 49-31. Then, McAlpine forced a Napa time-out with a trey from the top of the key.

“Live Oak. That’s it. That’s how Live Oak plays,” McAlpine said. “We’ve been playing together forever so it’s just there, the connection is there. He knows where I’m at all the time. That’s what makes it good.”

Silacci – who came off the bench to open the season – has forced his way into the starting line-up with his intense play on both ends of the court for Gavilan.

“Those guys have been phenomenal. Steve especially has been a pleasant surprise. He’s carrying us on both ends of the floor,” said Shoemaker of Silacci. “His toughness is really what has carried us up to this point. He basically willed us to win tonight.”

And McAlpine has found his shooting touch – burying four three pointers on the night.

“Jody gives us an athlete that gives the other team match-up problems because he can play on the perimeter and in the post,” Shoemaker said. “He did a great job.”

But it was not a one-man show that pulled Gavilan away. All of the 15 players on the roster got into the game and all 15 players contributed to the Rams’ strongest outing of the year.

“That’s what we wanted from the start when we first met up in the summer. Everyone is going to get playing time and everyone is going to contribute to our wins,” McAlpine said. “91 points is big, especially after last year they only won one game. We already broke that this year, so we just want to keep pushing on that. We just want to do as much as we can, win as many games as we can.”

Up next, the Rams hit the road – where they are 0-1 this season – for a Nov. 26 away game against Los Medanos at 7 p.m.

“We didn’t prepare very well mentally for our first road trip against Mendocino and that’s our next test. See if we can rise to the challenge a little bit on the road and compete,” said Shoemaker, still letting Friday’s victory sink in. “I’m most proud about two things. Number one that we gave a great effort. Secondly, that we won the game as a team. I got contributions from all 15 guys.”

Freshman Erik Nelson – a Gilroy High alum and former Mustang hoopster – came off the bench with one of his strongest efforts, netting two treys and finishing with eight points. While sophomore point guard Jimmy Herrera was steady at the point all night, the Rams also received solid outings from sophomore Cheston Turner and freshman Chris Priitivo – who scored two late buckets.

“I think as we play more games the roles will be a little bit more solidified. With us being a young team and me being a first-year coach, it just takes a little bit of time,” Shoemaker said. “We played very hard tonight and we gave a great effort so that’s what I’m most proud of.”

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