Looking to repeat as champs

By Javier Cabrera / Interim Sports Editor

By Javier Cabrera / Interim Sports Editor

A season of championship domination can be used to describe the Riverside City College men’s basketball team.

A season of winning tournaments, at one point ranking No. 1 in state and having a double figure winning streak, the RCC Tigers seek to follow up last season’s success with a consecutive title.

Starting the season in San Jose, RCC has shown the performance of consistent balance on offense and defense winning two tournaments and coming close to a third in San Jose.

“We use tournaments as a gage of how to teach them how to win in playoff times, because the playoffs are like a big tournament,” said John Smith.

When the team is in tournaments, Smith tries to break it down in simple terms for the team.

“In order to win a championship you have to win the first game of every tournament, in order to win the state championship you have to win every first game of a playoff,” Smith said. “We use that as a motivating factor.”

On the season the Tigers have averaged 75 points and 11.9 assists a game on offense, and have averaged 38.2 rebounds, five blocks and 12.2 steals a game on defense, making a balanced team game on both sides of the ball.

During the midseason, RCC was ranked No. 1 in the state before being brought down by Oxnard, but now the team looks to finish in the top 10.

The Tigers opened up the season at home by revealing their second state championship banner in team’s history.

“It was a great feeling, it took a lot of hard work to get to that,” Smith said. “It had been 43 years since there was state championship on the men’s side.”

The last championship for RCC men’s basketball team was won by Smith’s father’s team, and it added more emotion to Smith once his championship banner was revealed.

“My father was a part of that team and some of his teammates were here to celebrate with us in the ceremony,” Smith said. “There was a lot of energy that night.”

Once the competitive tournament competitions were over, the Tigers set their mark on conference play, winning eight straight before a three point loss courtesy of Irvine Valley.

“One game at a time, we are just taking it one game at time,” Smith said about his basketball team’s dominating performance in the Orange Empire Conference.

“We focus on whoever the next opponent is and make sure we are completely prepared for that opponent.” Smith said. “Then we will look to the next game.”

A sports philologist, conditioning trainer, and assistant coaches are the backbone of the team’s season success.

“It’s a collaborative effort from everyone,” Smith said. “They have been sacrificing time and other things to make sure we are successful.”

Before the loss to Irvine Valley, the Tigers had won 10 straight, eight coming from the conference, plus wins against Long Beach City College and Pasadena City College.

“We are not are looking forward, we are not looking backwards, we are just looking at the moment,” Smith said, “Staying in the moment.”

RCC’s chase for a consecutive title begins Feb. 27, the difference this time around, is RCC will not be able to sneak up on teams.

“People will be prepared for us,” Smith said.

“If we continue to do what we are doing and play the way we are capable of playing, then we have a good chance of being successful.”