After opening the season with 30 straight victories, the City College of San Francisco men’s basketball team will face its biggest test when it goes for win No. 31 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
If the Rams are going to advance to next weekend’s California Community College Athletic Association Final Four in Sacramento, they’ll need to win their rematch with Santa Rosa — the state’s best shooting team — at home Saturday.
“If they were on the other side of the bracket, both of us would go to the Final Four and there would a high chance that we would be playing each other in the state championship,” Rams coach Justin Labagh said.
The Rams are mowing through the competition this year, winning by an average of 25 points per game. Only four teams have come within 15 points of beating the Rams and it hasn’t happened since CCSF beat Sierra 88-73 on Dec. 14.
But Santa Rose is one of the teams that did put up a fight against the Rams this season. The Rams and Bear Cubs hooked up at CCSF for the opener and Labagh’s squad went into halftime trailing by six points.
“We hit some shots in the second half and they went a little cold,” Labagh said.
The Rams pulled out an 83-76 win, but Labagh expects an even tougher contest in Saturday’s rematch because the Bears Cubs have played a rigorous schedule.
“When you play the best teams, you get battle-tested,” he said. “Both teams are really battle-tested. It’s going to be a great game between two good basketball teams.”
Santa Rosa is a deadly team when it catches fire on the perimeter. The team knocked down 19 shots from beyond the arc against Hartnell on Dec. 20 and they hit 23 3-pointers against Cosumnes River on Jan. 29.
Labagh said his team will need to take advantage of its athleticism to disrupt the Bears Cubs’ outside shooting.
“We’ve got to be there on the catch and not give them any time and space to make the shot,” he said.
The Rams coach anticipates a close game, something that has been foreign to his team in recent weeks. He said his squad practices situational basketball every day, but replicating the intensity of a tight playoff game is impossible.
“You can practice, but when the pressure is on — are you going to have it?” he said.