SRJC Basketball: Men’s and Women’s teams finish season at .500

Matt Rubel, Assistant Sports Editor

The Santa Rosa Junior College men’s and women’s basketball teams had a roller coaster season with major ups, dropping into major downs; both teams couldn’t muster any real playoff run.
Men’s basketball played .500-ball all year, starting 7-7. They never could put a winning streak together to get over the hump. Finally, playing better, the team was 12-10 going into the final month of the season.

Then, as the coaster peaked, it inevitably dropped off. The team lost four of its next six games, ending the season with a 14-14 record. This crucial stretch of the schedule kept the defending champions out of the playoffs.
With six returning players from a state championship team, the roster had experience but lacked the consistency needed to make the playoffs.

“It’s obviously a disappointment going from the top to not making the playoffs. I’ve always set my goals high and this year came up short,” said Corey Hammell.

There were some bright spots such as Hammell’s play throughout the season. He averaged a double-double and scored 14.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

Sophomore point guard Davone Oliver was also a key piece, scoring 13.3 points a game. Sophomore Parker Farris averaged 13.3 points and led the Bear Cubs with 1.1 steals per game.

With a solid core, the team lacked the one piece that kept them from reaching that next level. Next year the team brings back six players, with a total of 53 starts between them.

“We were missing a true center and our maturity at times, but the good thing is there’s a solid core coming back next year,” Hammell said.

The women’s basketball season was a similar cycle of up-and-down play; the records were eerily similar, starting 7-8 and finishing 15-15.

The Bear Cubs had a tendency to start games slow. There was a handful of occasions where it took four to five minutes to score their first bucket. However, strong defense and rebounding kept them in most games. Jenna Dunbar led the team with 13.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.

Dunbar had a huge game in the Bear Cubs’ lone playoff win, scoring 21 points and 11 rebounds. Vai Thompson also pitched in with 11 points and eight rebounds, many of which came at a time when the team struggled.

The two players’ efforts helped vault SRJC to a playoff victory, coming back from an 18-point deficit to win 57-54, Feb. 25 at Haehl Pavilion.

“I feel like it was all a matter of wanting it more than any player on their team, and being prepared to change the energy of the game at any moment,” Thompson said.

After riding a huge high from the comeback win, the team traveled to Chabot College in Hayward for the second playoff game Feb. 28. The high was short-lived. Chabot thwarted the Bear Cubs’ efforts in the 79-70 loss.

In the final game Alicia Mehtlan had a monster game, scoring 29 points and snagging seven rebounds. Though she had eight turnovers, it did not take away from a stellar performance.

While Dunbar led the team all year, Mehtlan was the second leading-scorer at 9.8 points per game, tied with the reserve spark plug of Brooke Santandar.

While the team made the playoffs, it was an early exit for a team that at times lacked consistency and saw their season end in a hard-fought game.

“Well it’s definitely disappointing that we weren’t able to play on and reach our goal toward state, but I wouldn’t consider this year a disappointment,” Thompson said. “We all agreed that we are certainly not the team we were back in September.”