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December 6, 2023

Youthful Rams off to hot start

The kids are coming through.
The kids are coming through.

The Gavilan men’s basketball team, with a group of 10 freshmen unfamiliar with the program’s recent struggles, moved to 3-1 on the season after winning two of three at this weekend’s tournament at Monterey Peninsula College.

After starting the season with a win over Foothill, ranked 15th in NorCal, the Rams took down Redwoods and MPC before falling in the title game to hot-shooting Los Medanos.

“It was a very successful opening week,” Gavilan head coach Chris Shoemaker said.

In Monterey, the Rams were led by post players Andre Hayes (17 ppg) and Adrian Zamora (14 ppg, 9 rpg).

“It was a standout performance for both – on both sides of the court,” Shoemaker said. “Adrian did a great job on the boards and Andre was basically unguardable the entire tournament.”

The young team pulled out a pair of close victories on the first two days.

Against Redwoods, which ended up winning the consolation championship, Gavilan held on for a 73-71 win behind 19 points and eight rebounds from Zamora and 18 points and seven rebounds from Jon Morrison, the team’s only returning player.

Then, in front of a packed house Saturday, the Rams rallied for a rather stunning 80-78 win over home-standing MPC, ranked ninth in Northern California.

In the second half, MPC went on a 12-0 run, held Gav scoreless for six minutes and led by eight with less than five minutes remaining.

But Hayes, a Piedmont Hills grad who scored a team-high 23 points, contributed 10 of the team’s final 20 points and joined up with guard Jason Wells (20 pts) to lead the team’s late comeback.

“It was one of the more special games I’ve been a part of,” Shoemaker said. “The kids could’ve quit, but they just never wavered. It was a huge victory.

“It’s pretty special when a young team can win close games early in the year – and even more special when they claw back to earn those wins.”

In the championship game Sunday, the Rams ran into a red-hot Los Medanos team that fired in a trio of three-pointers within the first minute of the game and rolled to a 87-75 win.

For Gavilan, point guard Broc Sondgroth of Hollister tallied 12 points and five assists and forward Bobby Fathollani-Marani came off the bench to add a team-high 15 points. It just wasn’t enough, though.

“We just ran into a buzzsaw with Los Medanos,” Shoemaker said. “They came out quick and we couldn’t climb our way out of a big hole.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Rams now, with the next two games coming against traditional powers Skyline and Chabot College. But while Shoemaker said his team needs to improve its rebounding and transition defense, he isn’t attempting to hide his optimism.

“I think they’re already starting to forge an identity early in the year,” he said of his group of 11. “These guys practice so hard, and they’re not afraid of anything.”

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