It was looking bad for No. 1 City College of San Francisco (32-1). Losing 73-60 with eight minutes left against No. 2 Cerrito College (27-6) in the semifinals, the Rams staged a 29-10 run to win the game 89-83 and advance to the CCCAA Finals versus City College of San Diego in Ventura.
“I talked to Assistant Coach Adam D’Acquisto and we decided to run the diamond press,” Head Coach Justin Labagh said. “It caused constant pressure, and our guys did a great job of trapping the ball. They played with great energy.”
“We are a battle tested team and we knew what to do,” sophomore guard Eddie Stansberry said. “We had been in a similar situation against Foothill earlier this season, so I drew on that in my head. The adjustment coach made on defense was great, and we were able to frustrate them and get turnovers.”
On offense, backup sophomore forward Lewis Hayes led the way. In 23 minutes, Hayes scored 25 points, 17 of them in the second half, on 10-for-16 shooting with 7 rebounds.
“Hayes put us on his back,” Labagh said. “We kept going to him, and he delivered. He is in phenomenal shape. All year long we have subbed, so players know they have to be efficient, and that what he was tonight.”
The Falcon were a tough opponent and had a deep, athletic roster. Guard Riley Hamilton and forward Demetrius Thomas each scored 16 points, while three other players scored more than 10 points.
“They were a big, tall, and talented team,” Labagh said. “They shot real well too. At one point they made six shots in a row. We got whacked hard, but we countered and punched back.”
NorCal Player of the Year Terrell Brown was a major contributor, scoring 17 points with 5 rebounds and had only one turnover. Brown shot 3-for-9 from the field, but made 11-for-12 from the line.
“He didn’t force it and was smart where he picked his spots on offense,” Labagh said. “He had no charges, and played great defense. He locked down their guards late.”
Stansberry was the third leading scorer for the Rams with 14 points.
The win sets up a battle of the heavyweights in the championship. The Rams are No. 1 in Northern California, while City College of San Diego (33-2) is No. 1 in the SoCal.
“We came down here as professionals,” Labagh said. “Came here to win the whole thing. So we are going to look at some tape, rest up, and come prepared to win.
The CCCAA Championship game is at 3:30 p.m. and can be streamed on CCCAAsports.org.