3-Minute Interview: Justin Labagh

The City College of San Francisco men’s basketball coach has his Rams (29-3) on the verge of a state junior-college championship. CCSF faces Bakersfield (21-14) in today’s5 p.m. quarterfinal game at the University of Pacific in Stockton. The championship is Sunday.

What’s been the biggest surprise of this season? We play with nine guys — all nine guys. At the start of the year, I would have thought maybe a seven-man rotation. But these guys are really unselfish.

Why have they stepped up in the last few games? I just think they see the end in sight, they have their eye on the prize. We’re in it to win the thing. When you’re ranked No. 1 — and you’re ranked No. 1 all year — it can be a distraction. But it didn’t get into our heads, and now we’ve put ourselves in position, in the final eight, and we’ve beaten three teams down there.

What do you expect from Bakersfield? They press for 40 minutes; [coach Rick Hughes runs] the Vance Wahlberg system — dribble penetration and kick the ball out. We have to get back on defense, take care of the ball and not get into foul trouble.

Did losing a step short of state last year motivate this year’s team? We only have two sophomores on this year’s team, so I don’t think so. It does leave a salty feeling, but this is such a different team.

Would not bringing home a championship tarnish what you accomplished this season? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s really important to go into this thing and play well. I’ve seen too many teams with the No. 1 target on their back play not to lose. I think the guys are really good at playing in that role. … They trust each other and I’m not going to change anything up.

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