Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:
Reloading with a young team for another state basketball finals bid, the Santa Rosa Junior College women aim for a deep playoff run starting tonight hosting Laney in a first round game.
A basketball doubleheader is on tap as the Santa Rosa men follow at Haehl Pavilion, taking on Sequoias to open the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California Regional.
Women Continue Winning Ways
Ranked No. 10 in the state after winning the Big 8 Conference, the Bear Cubs women are confident they can match last season’s success. A year ago Santa Rosa lost in the state semifinals, the school’s first appearance in the final four since 1988, when Santa Rosa won its only state title.
A rugged nonconference schedule bolstered the squad’s skills and team play, preparing Santa Rosa for the second season – playoffs.
Winning 16 of 17 to finish the regular season, Santa Rosa led its league in scoring while also yielding the fewest points per contest.
Scoring balance — five players average more than 7 points a game – is a strength. The leading point producers are Mia Greco (Petaluma high) and Jen Tsurumoto (Analy), the past two Empire high school girls’ players of the year.
The sterling guards combine for 27 points a game, getting ample support from wing Ashley Morgan (Maria Carrillo) who grabs a team high 8 rebounds a game to go with a 9 point scoring average. Post players Krysten Copeland (Santa Rosa high) and Marie Sweet are shot blocking, defensive anchors who clean up on the offensive end.
Defensive effort helped turn a good season into a great one.
Extending defensive pressure and contesting shots consistently has made Santa Rosa a tough opponent. The Bear Cubs give up only 48 points a game, blocking nearly three times the number of shots compared with any league opponent, and second in steals.
Still, the Bear Cubs face a tough task in returning to the state final four.
Should they beat Laney, the Bear Cubs likely get conference rival San Joaquin Delta at home in round two. Santa Rosa went 1-3 against Delta this season, including two nonconference losses with the one win at home. Santa Rosa is the Nor Cal fourth seed and Delta is the fifth seed.
Top Nor Cal seed Fresno City also looms in Santa Rosa’s bracket.
Men Start At Home
Rewarded for playing a tough schedule, the Bear Cubs men snagged a home game to open the Nor Cal playoffs.
Santa Rosa finished second in the Big 8 Conference and takes a No. 14 state ranking into tonight’s game.
Pushing the pace on offense, Santa Rosa’s top scorers are guards and wings. While the Bear Cubs tied for most 3-point attempts on the season, they also often went to the free throw line.
Lorenzo McCloud, a 6 foot tall slasher who led the team in free throws, averages 19 a game. Point guard Taku Sama adds 12 per contest. Three point marksman Tim Oswald and post player Henry Gill (Analy) each contribute 10 points.
Still, the team’s calling card in posting a 20-win season has been defense. Santa Rosa is second in the conference in fewest points allowed. Putting constant pressure on opponents, the Bear Cubs average about 7 steals a game.
McCloud on top and Gill down low lead a defense that keeps Santa Rosa in games.
An All-Empire player at Analy three years ago, Gill also tops the team in blocks and rebounds, averaging more than 5 a game.
Fellow Analy standout Kevin Aronis also plays for the Bear Cubs. An All-Empire player a year ago, Aronis contributes 5 points and 2 rebounds an outing.
Robby Burroughs, an All-Empire player at Montgomery three years ago, is one of Santa Rosa’s 3-point sharpshooters making 42 percent of the long balls.
CCCAA Northern California Regional Basketball Playoffs
Men: Sequoias (19-10, 12th seed) at Santa Rosa (20-8, 5th seed), 7:30 p.m.
Women: Laney (19-11, 13th seed) at Santa Rosa (23-6, 4th seed), 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $8 general, $5 student, faculty, seniors, children under 12