Men’s basketball team wins consolation prize

Fresh talent readies for new season with tournament

By Rodney Woodson, Associate Editor

After finishing 2-1 and winning the consolation bracket at the Tony Costello Memorial Tournament, the men’s basketball team is off to a decent start to the 2014-15 season.

Held at Las Positas College Nov. 6-8, the tourney took place 20 days before the team’s next game. The Comet philosophy is built around what led them to take two of their first three contests.

Now in his 10th year coaching at the community college level (six at Contra Costa College) coach Miguel Johnson said the team is talented and skillful, yet a bit inexperienced. In order to win the elusive Bay Valley Conference title, Johnson said the team is going to work toward stopping opponents’ offenses and crisp execution.

“This year, we have talented players. It’s just getting them to play together,” Johnson said. “(It can be) difficult to teach community college players to make the best decision, while having freedom in the offense and realizing (that freedom in the offense) must be structured.”

The Comets dropped the first game of the tournament to Butte College, 79-77, bringing the game to within two points with just over one minute remaining in the game. Climbing back from a 16-point deficit, CCC was unable to complete the come from behind win. CCC won its next two games 60-57 and 74-56 against intra-district rival Diablo Valley College and College of the Siskiyous, respectively.

The Comets return to action against San Jose City College on Nov. 28, at the DVC tournament.

Johnson said the Butte game was theirs to win yet poor execution on offense and lax defense helped the team dig itself into a hole. While the team attests its current two-game winning streak to an improved defensive effort, there is no doubt that the Comets will definitely need strong defenders and offensive proficiency in order to end Yuba College’s eight-year run as conference champs.

The 49ers, currently 0-2, finished the 2013-14 season ranked No. 3 in the state. CCC has had some pretty solid years recently under Johnson. After making the state tournament for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons the Comets missed the postseason last year. Evident from the squad’s 16-12 overall record, this was not Johnson and the Comets’ best year. Yet, during CCC’s previous playoff runs, both years the team finished with at least 20 wins, it failed to win the conference.

“As we get better, other teams get better,” Johnson said. “We have to raise the bar. If (coaches) set high standards and we hold people to those standards guys will realize what it takes to win.”

This season’s squad is similar to his previous playoff squads, Johnson said, stating that there is a nice mixture of talented redshirt freshmen and sophomores with experience.

Guards Phillip Secrease and Tajai Johnson are among the names he mentioned as second-year guys he expects to step up this year.

He also talked about Jordan Brown and Justin Johnson, transfer students from Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado and DVC.

To vie for a conference crown Tajai Johnson said communication on the defensive side end is paramount.

“We shouldn’t have lost to Butte,” he said during practice Thursday. “Coaches Johnson and Maples emphasized talking, which helped us bring the (Butte) game within two. We just have to always talk.”

He also reiterated what coach Johnson said in his office Wednesday, highlighting the need for he and other guys to find room to score within the offense, as opposed to making room to score.

Sophomore Dawson Johnson, who transferred from De Anza College in Cupertino, is an Oakland native who played at Castro Valley High School. He said he has played basketball since the age of 12.

“We played all right (in the Las Positas tournament),” he said. “On defense we could have played a little harder.”

To get better, Dawson said the team needs to improve on rebounding, and that his coach is stressing the burden of leadership on the sophomores.

“(Coach Johnson) gave us certain people to keep an eye on and make sure they’re on board (with the team concept),” he said.