SACRAMENTO, Calif.- The Cosumnes River men's basketball team wrapped up the regular season by winning their 12th straight game, and their 22nd of the season, defeating Santa Rosa 70-67 before a raucous crowd on Sophomore Night. CRC closes out the 2014-15 regular season with a 22-7 overall record, 12-2 in conference, and winners of the 2014-15 Big 8 conference title.
With television cameras rolling, head coach James Giacomazzi and his Cosumnes River Hawks entered Friday night's contest riding an 11 game winning streak, as they played host to the defending state champion Santa Rosa Bear Cubs. A shorthanded Hawks team looked to finish the season sweep of Santa Rosa, who were looking for a season split as they hoped to remain in playoff contention.
CRC's vaunted defense, ranked 1st in Northern California and 3rd in the state, held a talented Santa Rosa team in check for most of the first half, as the Hawks took a 36-27 lead into the intermission. The margin would have been greater had the Hawks offense exercised better clock management late in the half, as CRC controlled the last possession with less than 35 seconds to play.
Cosumnes River forced an ill-advised shot, which the Bear Cubs rebounded and were fouled shortly after with only two seconds remaining in the half. Corey Hammell knocked down a pair of free throws to close the CRC advantage to nine points at halftime.
The Hawks had an opportunity to put the Bear Cubs away early in the half, but poor shot selection and fouls created an opportunity for Santa Rosa to climb back into the ball game. Santa Rosa was efficient from the line, converting their free throw opportunities, to keep the Hawks lead to single digits. A pair of three pointers by guard Jacob Wilson and forward Jordan Hickman gave Santa Rosa their first lead of the game at the ten minute mark, as CRC looked to be facing only their second loss at home this season.
CRC's guard play continued to be outstanding, however, as guards Mitchell Love and Phil Randles provided timely offense to keep the game tight. There would be many lead changes down the stretch, before the Bear Cubs took a 67-66 lead with under 35 seconds to play late in the final period.
The Hawks held the ball until 12 seconds remained, before Mitchell Love initiated a drive through the lane to the basket. Love drew three defenders before kicking it out to Phil Randles who attacked the baseline following a hard closeout by a Bear Cub defender. Randles attempted a layup with two seconds to play, but was fouled on the shot. A pair of Randles free throws gave CRC a 68-67 lead with two seconds remaining.
Santa Rosa attempted a deep pass toward their basket, but threw the ball 94 feet out of bounds, giving the Hawks the ball on the baseline under their basket. Cosumnes River inbounded the ball to the veteran Mitchell Love, who was quickly fouled with only 2.1 seconds remaining in the contest. Love knocked down both free throws to give the Hawks a 70-67 lead with only seconds remaining. Guard Jacob Wilson attempted a deep heave toward the basket, but it fell short, giving Cosumnes River the 70-67 victory on Sophomore Night at Clark Court.
In all, five players scored in double-figures for the Hawks, who received great contributions from their bench in the night's contest. Love led all scorers with 21 points, while also dishing a team-high six assists in the win. David Straughter, Randles, Trenton Anthony and Daylon Potts rounded out the scoring with 14 points, 12 points, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Potts also contributed 14 rebounds in his second start of the season. Sophomore Josh Dela Cruz scored only two points, but contributed four rebounds and five assists in the win for CRC.
Sophomore forward Corey Hammell had his second consecutive strong game against the Hawks, scoring 18 points while grabbing 14 rebounds for the Bear Cubs. Sophomore guard Davone Oliver added 18 points in the loss for Santa Rosa.
The Hawks are a lock to host a playoff game next week as a top eight seed in the CCCAA Northern California Regional playoffs, but the seedings and schedule have yet to be determined. Brackets will be released Monday.
As Big 8 champs, Cosumnes River receives an automatic bid to the playoffs. Santa Rosa and the rest of the Big 8 conference will have to wait to see if they make the playoffs as an at-large bid. Last season Cosumnes River advanced to the Northern California regional semifinals before losing to Fresno City on the road in the Sweet Sixteen.