The City College of San Francisco men’s basketball team defeated Chabot College 108-83 to win its twelfth game in a row on Wednesday, but despite the big win, there was much to improve upon for the Rams in the eyes of their head coach.
“We have to improve our defense, our offense, take better shots,” said Justin Labagh. “When we have subs come in they have to be ready to play and I didn’t think that was the case. You know it’s hard, we are beating these teams so badly the first time we play, but the second time we take it so lightly.”
The Rams started off slowly, and were trailing 22-15 eight minutes into the game, until an offensive explosion by sophomore forward Austin McCullough turned things around. McCullough started by drilling a three and then immediately followed that up with a steal on defense that turned into a fast-break dunk. McCullough wasn’t done yet though, and followed with a reverse layup in traffic to tie the game at 22-22.
McCullough’s fellow former Cal Golden Bear, guard Deschon Winston, hit a long two to put City College up 24-22, and after that, the Rams never gave up their lead. Winston, who led the team with 22 points, dominated shooting from midrange. Able to create his own shot off the dribble, Winston showed off his near perfect form all game and caused headaches for the Chabot defender assigned to him.
“That is one of my favorite shots,” Winston said. “I liked to practice them a lot growing up. Coming out of high school that was my shot, it is bread and butter for me. That is my most confident shot.”
Winston also showed off ball handling skills, when, with four minutes left in the first half, he got the ball on a fast break and deployed a nasty cross-over, throwing off his defender before finishing the sequence with a reverse layup to give his team a 43-30 lead.
City College began the second half up 52-36 and started off energized thanks to a monster block by swingman Malcolm Johnson.
Five minutes into the half, the Rams were handed a setback when McCullough got ejected from the game. McCullough had found himself tangled up with a Chabot player, and was booted when the officials said that he had kicked his opponent, although McCullough denied the allegation. Labagh did not see exactly what happened, but will try to ascertain it on film.
“We got into a little bit of a scuffle, you know unfortunately the ref saw something he though that happened but I thought our guys did a good job of not letting that bother them, and we kept the momentum up,” McCullough said. “It is definitely going to affect me mentally because I didn’t think I should be ejected, but you know, you just got to live with it and just be moving forward. Whatever happens, I am going to be encouraging in practice and getting ready for whenever I can play again.”
With McCullough out, Winston stepped up and guided the Rams to victory. He scored 12 of his 22 points during the second half and continued to put on a midrange shooting clinic.
Despite ending up with the win, City College made a bunch of little mistakes that frustrated Labagh. One in particular was his team’s insistence on making flashy passes, specifically Magic Johnson-style around-the-back passes.
“We try to tell them not to do that but these guys are kind of on their own page sometimes and that is a result of it,” Labagh said.
Labagh had a long locker room talk with his players after the game to try to stop the team from making those types of mistakes moving forward, as the state playoffs begin in Ventura next month.
“We were just talking about what it is going to take to get to Ventura for the Elite Eight. We talked about how we felt and how the coaches felt, and we came together,” McCullough said. “We got on the same pages afterwords and hopefully we can move forward.”
The victory was the Rams’ second win of the week, after finishing their postponed game against Foothill on Monday. Called off with 16 minutes left in the game because of a leaky gym roof, the Rams were trailing 39-33 and were at risk of loosing only their second game of the season but once the game resumed they blew Foothill out of the water, finishing the game with a 73-56 victory.
With those two victories, the Rams improved to 26-1. City College plays its final regular season game on Friday against Ohlone College and will then head into the state playoff with the No. 1 seed.