Empire Prep Standouts Help Lead SRJC Basketball Teams Onto Doorstep Of Final Fours

Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Staying home for the state playoffs, the Santa Rosa Junior College women Saturday are a win away from the final four, while the Bear Cubs men must grab another road win to advance.
That the women today host a third game in the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California Regional is thanks to Sierra’s upset of top seed Fresno City. But the Bear Cubs recognize defeating a hot conference rival again will be challenging.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times. Obviously they’re playing well if they can beat the number one team in the north,” said Santa Rosa coach Lacey Campbell.
Santa Rosa has been in control by halftime in both playoff wins. A balanced scoring team, the Bear Cubs array of shooters has shown in the victories.
Jen Tsurumoto (Analy) led from the outside and Marie Sweet played big games down low. Point guard Mia Greco (Petaluma) has been even more of a playmaker as defenses work to keep Santa Rosa’s leading scorer in check. Krysten Copeland (Santa Rosa) joins Sweet to anchor the post, including a handful of block in the playoff wins.
While young, Santa Rosa is playing confident with the Bear Cubs greatest improvement on defense. Contesting open shots and denying passes into the low post more consistently, Santa Rosa is beating teams by nearly 20 points a game.
Sierra also is playing its best basketball. While the Bear Cubs handled Sierra at home, Santa Rosa battled to win by a basket on the Wolverines home court.
A physical team, Sierra’s leading scorers are a pair of strong forwards. Improved guard play makes Sierra more difficult to defend.
For the second game in a row, Santa Rosa faces a conference rival. On Wednesday, the Bear Cubs defeated San Joaquin Delta, a thorny opponent this season.
“If we can play defense like we did against Delta, then we should do well,” Campbell said.
Saturday’s winner joins the Foothill-San Francisco winner to represent Northern California in the state final four.
Ranked No. 10 in the state after winning the Big Eight Conference, the Bear Cubs women are confident they can match last year’s team and reach the state semifinals. That was Santa Rosa’s first appearance in the final four since 1988 when the Bear Cubs won their only state title.

Men on the Road Again
Heading back across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bear Cubs men Saturday face a daunting opponent in San Francisco, the state’s top ranked team.
Buoyed by Wednesday’s win at Canada, in Redwood City, tenth ranked Santa Rosa looks to slow down the Rams. San Francisco’s average winning margin is nearly 19 points a game compared with just over 5 for Santa Rosa.
“We have to get back on defense, keep them from penetrating and posting up inside, and keep them off the boards,” said Santa Rosa coach Craig McMillan.
Santa Rosa gives up size across the starting lineup making it more difficult to create mismatches on offense.
Still, the Bear Cubs have a chance if they play as well as in the Canada contest. Down by seven late in the first half, Santa Rosa closed on a 43-21 run to win going away.
“It’s the best we’ve played all year in that stretch,” McMillan said.
The high-low combination of point guard Lorenzo McCloud and center Henry Gill (Analy) led the way as Santa Rosa had five players scoring in double figures.
Still a raw player coming into the season, Gill has developed into Santa Rosa’s top rebounder and top low post player.
“He’s a good athlete. It took him awhile to get where he is at now,” McMillan said. “We expected him to improve. He’s worked hard and really put a lot of effort into it.”
Gill is among many new players McMillan has mixed in following considerable turnover on the roster from last season. Only returning forward Tim Oswald played regularly a year ago. Returning guard Matt Raivio has missed stretches due to injury.