The City College men’s basketball team can score with just about any team in the Big 8 Conference. The Panthers have the type of offensive firepower that has been known to make opposing coaches slam their clipboards down in frustration.
But with only eight games remaining in the regular season, scoring is not the focus of head coach Andrew Jones; it’s what the team does on the other end of the floor that can push the Panthers to the next level.
“We’re not very good right now,” Jones confessed of his squad’s defensive outings of late. “We scored 87 points and gave up 92 to a [Folsom Lake] team that only had six guys. That’s not a recipe for an extended run.”
Trying to remedy the defensive struggles, Jones ordered a five-on-five full court drill after a recent practice. But unlike traditional scrimmages, this winner was not the first to score five points—it was the first team to make five defensive stops.
“We’re just going to continue to grow,” said point guard Raphael “Cinco” Durr. “Realistically, we just want to make the playoffs. We want to make up for our mistakes, come out ready to play and be a competitor every game.”
The Panthers concluded the week of Jan. 8–14 with two wins and one loss in three games. City put together a three-game win streak with victories over American River College Jan. 6, Cosumnes River College Jan. 9 and Diablo Valley College Jan. 11 in overtime. After the Jan. 13 loss at Folsom Lake College, the Panthers wrapped up a grueling stretch of seven games over the span of 16 days.
What made that span even tougher is the fact that City had only eight available players for most of the games and only seven against Folsom Lake. Some of head coach Andrew Jones’ players have been lost to grades, injuries and illnesses. Playing that many games in that short a span with so few players can likely take a toll on any team.
“It’s more of a mental wear than a physical one,” said Durr. “It was to the point where we had to get mentally focused and physically, just stay healthy. When we do have a break, just utilize the break and don’t do much. Over that seven-game stretch, I think we did really well.”
Durr—known as “Cinco” because he was born on July 5, he is the fifth Raphael in his family as well as the fifth grandchild, and he wears No. 5 on his jersey—posted the fourth triple-double in the history of the program in the Jan. 6 win against American River with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists.
“I didn’t know that I had one until we were watching film the next day,” said Durr. “It felt good. I felt accomplished.”
After spending a majority of the season as the team’s primary scoring weapon off the bench, sophomore Troy Owens has settled into a starting role during Conference play. Owens is averaging 26 points per game over the team’s first eight Big 8 games, ranking him second in the conference.
He followed a 33-point effort against American River with 31 along with 12 rebounds in the 84-70 win at Cosumnes River. Ryan Reed’s 20 bench points helped City turn a 10-point halftime deficit into a 14-point victory.
Owens scored 23 points with 10 rebounds, and Gabe Serna added 19 against Diablo Valley. Serna, the team captain, knocked down five 3-pointers, one of which proved to be the game-winner in the final minute of overtime, giving the Panthers a 94-90 win. Jhalen Lumpkins had 17 points and 10 boards, including the tip-in that sent the game into overtime. Reed added 16 points and Michael Kirkland had a crucial blocked shot in overtime to help preserve the win against the Vikings.
The 92-87 loss on Jan. 13 at Folsom Lake snapped City’s win streak despite Owens’ 28 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Reed added 19 points off the bench.
“We’re down to seven healthy guys,” said Jones. “We’re tied for fourth [in league]. The good thing is that we’re back on a Tuesday, Friday schedule.”
City currently holds a 12-9 overall record with a 4-4 mark in the Big 8 Conference. The Panthers return to action Jan. 19 at Modesto Junior College.
“I honestly think we are the underdogs,” said Durr. “Nobody expects us to win with just seven. Everybody’s looking down to us right now, but that’s not going to faze us.”
For more info on SCC Men’s basketball, visit http://sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/mbkb/index