Comets fall to conference rivals T-Birds

Despite comeback efforts Merritt College seal late victory

By Jason Sykes, Assistant Sports Editor

OAKLAND — The men’s basketball team traveled into hostile territory hoping to earn its seventh conference win of the season. But Merritt College (17-4 overall, and 7-2 in BVC) had other plans, playing inspired basketball and earning an 91-81 victory at home on Saturday.

The Comets (9-10 overall, and 6-3 in BVC) were forced to play from behind just about the entire game. The T-Birds made every offensive possession for CCC a tough one.

Midway through the first half, the Comets cut the Merritt lead down to three points. Coming out of the break CCC had momentum that it hoped to build on through the remainder of the contest.

The team will need to find that momentum if they are going to beat the College of Marin tonight in the Gymnasium at 5:30 p.m.

The squad struck quick but for each run the Comets put together the T-Birds had an answer for it.

“We didn’t come out and play with the same defensive intensity as we did in the first half,” CCC guard Pekelo McKenzie said.

The Comets were forced to play from behind all game. They exerted so much energy to keep the contest close that they were unable to get over the hump.

Preventing turnovers became a constant uphill battle for the team. Merritt pounced on the Comets and began to get transition baskets off of CCC’s mistakes. The T-Bird defense suffocated the Comet wing players, forcing them into tough shots all game.

“Merritt was a team on a mission,” coach Miguel Johnson said. “They pushed the ball up the court every chance they got. Their offense was fast and fluid. They just beat us at everything.”

The Merritt guards forced the issue, causing the CCC post players to get into early foul trouble and throwing off the rhythm of the Comet defensive rotations.

At the half the Thunderbirds led 47-34.

The sloppy play continued after the break and would begin to spill onto the defensive side of the court as well. The Comets struggled to halt the T-Bird attack, allowing some easy lay-ups and crucial second chance points.

“We were trying to force things and make hero plays to win the game. It just didn’t go in our favor,” CCC forward Phillip Secrease said.

CCC failed to execute its game plan and it was reflected on the score sheet. The team committed 21 turnovers in the contest.

The squad seemed to have been playing out of its element and resorted to run-and-gun basketball. They were never able to convert consistently from half court offensive sets.

The Comets had a hard time making runs because their shots were not falling, a number of which were good shots taken in rhythm. They just could not put the ball in the basket in the second half.

Although the Comets struggled offensively, guard Tajai Johnson led the way with 24 points and four rebounds, while guard Dawson Johnson pitched in with 15 points and five assists.

Forward Justin Johnson finished with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds.