15 Feb 19
The Ukiah Daily Journal
With three games left in their season, it’s safe to say that the likely hallmark for this season’s Mendocino College Eagles men’s basketball team will be its propensity to play close games.
Through Wednesday’s home game vs. Yuba College, the Eagles had played 25 of the 28 games on their 2018-2019 schedule. Of those 25 a games, 17 had a final margin of victory of 9 points or less; 15 were decided by 5 points or less; 7 games by 3 points or less. Two of those games went into overtime. One went into double overtime.
Of the 8 games in which the margin of victory was 10 points or more, the Eagles won 5 of those games by an average margin of 20 points. In the 3 games they lost by 10 points or more, the average final spread was 11.7 points.
Their largest margin of victory was 35 points in an 87-51 win over Redwoods on December 1. Seven days later they suffered their largest margin of defeat, 15 points in a 90-75 lost to Fresno City College in the championship game of the Modesto JC Tournament.
Thus, almost two-thirds of the Eagles’ games have been closely-contested, with the Eagles winning a majority of those games.
The Eagles two most recent games adhered to that close-game trend, but strayed from the overall season trend of the Eagles winning most of the close games.
Last Friday at Contra Costa, the Eagles almost won another close game. They were on the verge of getting a 3-point win in regulation, when a questionable foul call helped Contra tie and send the game into overtime.
Lighting struck twice. In the first overtime period, with the Eagles again poised to pull out a win, the Comets again tied the game in the final seconds, sending the game into double overtime.
Playing on their home court, Contra managed to win the game in the second overtime by a final score of 97-92.
Wednesday evening at home, the Eagles were up against the perennial conference champions, the Yuba College 49ers.
Coming into the game, Yuba once again was heading the pack, leading the Bay Valley Conference standings with a 12-1 record and 21-4 overall record.
Yuba has won the BVC championship 11 out of the last 12 seasons. The one year they didn’t win conference championship game, the 2015-2016 season, they finished fourth.
Interestingly, that was the last season the conference held a post-season conference tournament pitting the top 6 teams in the final standings. The Eagles finished sixth that season.
The winner of that conference tournament was the Mendocino College Eagles, beating Yuba on Yuba’s home court in Marysville in the tournament championship game by a final score of 93-84.
To reach the championship game, the Eagles beat Los Medanos in the first round 102-94 on the Mustang’s court and then Merritt 102-95 in the second round on the Thunderbird’s court.
The team photo of that 2015-2016 Eagles team graces the display case in the lobby of the Mendocino College Gymnasium.
Back to the present: The Eagles and Yuba had played earlier this season up in Marysville on Jan. 11. In that game Yuba rolled to a 47-27 lead at halftime.
But the Eagles didn’t start packing their bags at half. Instead, they regrouped and came out in the second half and outplayed the 49ers, outscoring them 53-43 to make the final score a more respectable 90-80.
Going into Friday’s game, Yuba was on a roll, having won 10 conference games in a row since losing at home to Merritt on Jan. 2.
This time around, the matchup between the Eagles and the 49ers was different ball game. This game was not the high-scoring affair like the last meeting.
In this game Eagles held leads early in the first half. Yuba surged ahead by 14 points, but the Eagles rallied back to trail by just 5 at half, 34-29.
In the second half, the Eagles retook the lead at 42-39 five-plus minutes into the half. Yuba went back ahead with 12:06 to play and managed to hold a slim lead for the remainder of the game, with Eagles getting within 1 point with 4:21 to go and within 2 points with 22 seconds left.
But Yuba managed to hold on to win the hard-fought game 67-62.
Going into the game, the Eagles staff had analyzed the first game between the teams and made some adjustments for this second meeting.
Eagles head coach Billy Offill explained those adjustments. “Defensively, I loved our game plan. We wanted mixed in some full-court pressure with some zone. We saw at their place they couldn’t handle pressure. So we got together this morning and watched some film.
“We decided to pick our times when we could go red (press). I thought our leadership, our three-headed monster (sophomore forward) Gabe (Knight), (sophomore guard) Jared (Strate) and (sophomore guard) Diego (Reyes) were smart and knew when to do that.”
Two minutes into the game the score was tied 2-2. Two Knight free throws gave the Eagles a 4-2 lead.
Five minutes into the game the score was tied at 7. A bit later a Reyes’ steal and layup had the Eagles on top, 10-9. At the 12-minute mark a driving layup by freshman guard Divon Davis-Boddie tied the score 12.
Yuba made a mini run of 5 points, countered with another Davis-Boddie layup to make the score 17-14 with 10:07 left on the first-half clock.
Over the next 4 minutes of play, the Eagles went cold from the floor, enabling Yuba to build a 28-16 with 5:40 to go in the half. A Knight jumper interrupted the run, but, with just under 4 minutes left in the half, Yuba’s lead was up to 14 at 32-18.
A Knight layup cut the deficit to 12. A trey by sophomore forward Bymnet Tecle cut the lead to single digits a 32-23. A Yuba putback made the score 34-23, with the Eagles taking a timeout with 1:55 to go in the half.
Coming out of the timeout, Strate hit a trey. A couple MC defensive shops later, he hit from beyond the arc again to make the score 34-29 with 37.8 left in the half. That remained the score at half.
The Eagles had just 2 more points going into the locker room at half in this game than they had in the first meeting of the teams. But the 49ers had 13 points less; the result, a 5-point game at half instead of a 20-point game.
Yuba’s Brandon Recek hit his third trey of the game on Yuba’s first possession of the second half. Two free throws bumped the lead to 39-29. Two Knight jumpers cut the Yuba lead down to 6. A Knight free throw cut the lead to 5 points with 4 minutes having been played in the half.
At the 15:32 mark a forceful drive to the bucket along the left baseline by Eagles sophomore forward Larry Bryson make the score 39-36.
With 14:48 on the clock, after 6 consecutive Eagles’ defensive stops and a Yuba foul on a Reyes three-point shot, the 49ers called a timeout.
When play resumed Reyes hit the first and third of his free throw attempts to cut the Yuba lead to 1 point.
A Knight steal and free throw and then another Eagles’ stop, followed by a Knight layup put the Eagles up 42-39 with 14:37 on the clock.
Yuba broke the Eagles’ 11-0 run with layup to cut the Eagles lead to 42-41 with a little over 13 minutes still to play. A minute later, Recek hit a jumper to give Yuba back the lead at 43-42, with the Eagles calling a timeout.
Yuba tacked on 4 points to their lead before the mini run was countered by a Tecle trey from the top of the arc, cutting the lead to 47-45, but Recek hit a trey from the left corner to make the score 50-45.
With around 9 minutes left on the clock, freshman guard Fred Bryant came off the bench and knocked down a trey from the left side cutting the deficit to two points.
Yuba’s 6-7 Stevie James nailed a trey from the left corner to make it a 5-point Yuba lead again, now 53-48.
A Tecle jumper in the paint cut the lead to 53-50, but a Yuba putback made the score 55-50.
Tecle hit a three to made it a 2-point game at 55-53 with 6:45 to play.
A Yuba layup with just under 6 minutes left put them up 57-53.
After two defensive stops for each side, Strate hit a trey from the left side to cut the Yuba lead to 1 point at 57-56 with 4:21 on the game clock.
On Yuba’s next possession, they got 2 offensive rebounds, with James drawing a foul on the second and making both free throws with 3:27 on the clock to put Yuba up 59-56.
Each team missed shots on their next possession and then the Eagles missed a trey attempt with 2:19 to play.
Yuba got a big trey from the right corner by Cornell Greenwood to go up 62-56 with 1:58 to go and Mendocino calling a timeout.
Bryson hit a jumper off a Knight assist to cut the deficit to 62-58 with 1:36 to go. Yuba made a layup to go up 64-58.
The Eagles missed a trey attempt on their next possession, but Davis-Boddie made a steal and layup to cut the Yuba lead to 4 points again with 52 seconds left.
With Yuba attempting to run the clock down, the Eagles were forced to foul, finally sending Yuba to the line to shoot a one-and one with 38 seconds left.
The shooter missed the first free throw attempt, but Yuba got the offensive board, with Eagles fouling again with 25.1 seconds to go.
Again Yuba missed the first free throw attempt on the one-and-one and the ball going out of bounds off a 49er with 21.9 seconds left.
The Eagles hit a quick jumper by Reyes to make the score 64-62 and then fouled with 17 seconds left. This time the 49er made the first free throw of a one-and-one to make the score 65-62. The Eagles called a timeout.
When play resumed the shooter missed the second free throw, but Yuba got another offensive board and drew another foul with 15.4 on the clock.
The foul was the Eagles’ 10th, sending the Yuba player to the line to shoot two. He made them both to make the score 67-62.
The Eagles missed two 3-point attempts in the time remaining, with Yuba holding on for the win.
After the game Offill noted “That (Yuba) was the No. 4-ranked team in the North (Northern California). That was their 22nd win tonight. Sometimes the difference in games against teams like that is the small things like execution. Doing the little things. Tonight a couple guys took shots out of rhythm that they didn’t need to take. We forced a couple things.
“Ultimately, you have to give our guys some respect. They played hard and held Yuba to 67. We wanted a game in the 60’s. Last time we played them 90-80 and we were running uphill all night.
“I thought Gabe had a nice game of controlling the tempo and dishing and doing some good things. We wanted to get him a couple clean looks. Jared hit four threes, but I thought we could have gotten him a few more looks. Diego was heady and did some good things.
“But we didn’t contain them (Yuba) as much as we could have at the end there. Defensively, we did what we needed to do and kept the game in the ‘60’s. We thought we could maybe win it 70-67. We didn’t want it up in the 90’s again.
“When you’re at home and your guys are playing their tails off, you’d expect to get something going. Gabe’s at the bucket getting dislodged and pushed around. I think we stuck 8 threes and they stuck 6.
“We just didn’t enough free throws up. We only had 12 free throws and Yuba had 19. There was that discrepancy at the free throw line. Our guys were driving hard, but we couldn’t get a lot of those into buckets or free throws.
“I thought we made a nice push at the end of half. At the end of the game, we had some great opportunities. We had them (Yuba) at the line with one-on-ones and we couldn’t get a defensive board.
“We needed a win tonight. It was a disappointing loss for us. I know these guys, some of them for two plus years. They’re going to go hard down the stretch.
“Losing these last two games in the fashion we lost them, most teams would kind of roll it up and call it a year. I don’t see my guys doing that.
“I thought my guys played with a lot of toughness tonight. There were some guys with some bloody lips and uniforms in our huddles. We were giving up 6-8 inches at a lot of spots.
“I’m not upset at all with the effort. I thought my guys executed the game plan to a T. I wish I could have done more for them down the stretch. Yuba kind of stole one from us tonight. It was a disappointing loss. It was kind of one we needed to have.
“We just going to try and play it out and see how many games we can win out of these last three. The basketball gods just haven’t been with us the last couple nights.
“We’ve got a tough one with Los Medanos on Friday (Feb. 15) at their place. It will be the third time we’ve played them. Then we have to go to Solano on Wednesday (March 20) which will be tough as well.”
In a game that saw 41 less points scored than in the first meeting of the two teams, Yuba’s Greenwood was the game-high scorer with 16 points. Recek had 13. Two other 49ers were in double digits with 12 each.
The Eagles were led by Knight with 15. Strate had 12 points on 4 treys. Reyes had 9, Davis-Boddie and Tecle 8 each, Bryant 6 on his two treys, Bryson 4.
With the loss, the Eagles conference record dropped to 6-7 and their overall record to 15-10.
In addition to the Los Medanos and Solano road games, the Eagles will play their final game of the season and final home game next Friday (Feb. 22). That will be Sophomore Night when the team’s sophomores are honored before the game.
If the Eagles they can run the table by winning their final three games they will equal last season’s Eagles’ team win total with 18-wins and also tie the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 Eagles teams which also had 18-win seasons.