By Nick Peralta
Valiantly as they tried, the Riverside City College men’s basketball team has been knocked out of the Southern California Regionals after a crushing loss to San Diego City College on March 4.
Coming into this season’s state tournament, Riverside was ranked low at 13 finishing with a modest 21-8 season and going 8-4 in their own conference. In the regionals opening round RCC faced off against Cypress College, defeating their Orange Empire Conference rivals in a thrilling 70-53 victory. The Tigers would then go on to match-up with fourth ranked San Bernardino Valley College, upsetting the lead team from the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference North in a 68-59 defensive standoff.
Safe to say Riverside knew that the odds, on paper at least, were against them. But they never bought into the notion that they weren’t capable of climbing the mountain that is the SoCal Regionals and bringing home the championship. That’s certainly the attitude head coach Philip Mathews shared coming into their semifinal game against San Diego.
“Once we’re in the playoffs, the seeding doesn’t matter,” he said. “You have to go in there and take each game one at a time. I think we match really well with San Diego so it’s going to be a good game.”
Assistant coach Shannon Taylor shared a similar sentiment. “Everybody’s 0-0. Anybody could beat anybody. When it comes to playoffs it’s like a brand-new season,” Shannon said.
RCC would lose to San Diego 113-81. Despite a competitive game early on, once San Diego took the lead, they never gave up, leaving RCC failing in their attempt to play catch up the entire game. Turnovers were the Tigers’ worst enemy as Riverside would grant San Diego City 27 points off turnovers which accounted for nearly 25 percent of their total points scored. San Diego nabbing 40 rebounds in total and shooting more accurately in every category also contributed to the crushing March 4 loss.
Even in the face of adversity in this game, starters Brandon Thomas Andre Wilson and Andy Cleaves still tried to rally their team. Thomas would score the most points with 22, and tying Wilson with 6 rebounds in the game. Cleaves, who has scored the most points for RCC this season, shot most accurately scoring on 66 percent of his field goals and making the lone three pointer he attempted.
Despite feeling the hardships of defeat, it doesn’t take away from the resilience that was our RCC Tigers this basketball season.Cleaves and Wilson believed this team was ready for anything and everything this season and relayed that belief into their team before the semi’s. “We play hard. This season we have players that are not selfish. We took what was given to us and we ran with it.” Cleaves said.
Wilson added his thoughts on what he believes brought this team what cannot be described as anything other than a victorious season.
“This was a winning team from day one,” he said. “The family aspect, this team is super close, since day one we’ve been close.”