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SRJC basketball: Bear Cubs start title quest at home

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa Junior College women’s basketball team has been awarded the No. 1 seed for the California Community College Athletic Association Northern Regional and will begin its state title quest with a home game Saturday night.

The SRJC men were given a No. 4 seed and will also host a game on Saturday. The women will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. as the first game of the doubleheader with the men scheduled for 7:30.

The men will play No. 13 Chabot (14-13) while the women will host the winner of Wednesday night’s game between No. 16 San Jose City (11-16) and No. 17 Laney (15-11).

If the women keep winning, they’ll have home court for all three rounds of the Regional. The No. 4 seed guarantees the men at least one more home game, if they win Saturday.

The second round is scheduled for March 6 with the Regional finals March 9. There are two NorCal Regional brackets for both the men and the women. The winner of each bracket advances to the State Tournament set for March 15-17 at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento.

The Bear Cubs men are the reigning Big Eight Conference champs while the women are sharing the title with Sierra.

This is the first time since 2005 the Bear Cubs women have gotten a No. 1 seed. Their record is 24-6 and they’re 9-1 at home.

“I knew we were in the hunt for the top seed,” coach Lacey Campbell said. “I think what put us over the top were the two quality wins over Fresno.” The Bear Cubs prevailed, 76-70, on Nov. 17 and then won, 59-54, a month later.

Fresno City, in the other NorCal bracket, was selected as the No. 2 seed.

Campbell guided a team to the state title in 2011 and says this squad has the ability to go just as far.

“The key is for us to have everyone healthy and improve on the weaknesses we’ve had at times this season,” she said. “One thing we need to do is be more consistent on the way we play defense.”

Campbell hopes Jade Hudson and Madison Sowards will be able to play. Both sat out the regular season finale on Feb. 22 with nagging injuries.

Whitney Edens, who earned All-Empire Player of the Year honors while at Cloverdale, leads the Bear Cubs in scoring with 10.5 points per game. Arianna Hanson (Rincon Valley Christian) comes into the post-season averaging 9.6 while Anandi Jiminez (Montgomery) scores at an 8.7-per-game clip.

The Mendocino College women’s team is in the other side of the bracket. The Eagles (19-7) were pegged the No. 14 seed and will travel to No. 3 Sierra (21.7) on Friday.

Craig McMillan, the Bear Cubs men’s coach, said he and his team are ready for the playoffs.

“We’re excited,” he said. “I thought we’d get a No. 3 seed but I’m not complaining. The key is getting in the top four. Then, you get at least two home games.”

If the Bear Cubs get those two wins, they’ll likely go on the road to face No. 1 City College of San Francisco (28-0) with the winner advancing to the state tournament.

“We’re capable of beating anyone if we play like we can,” McMillan said. “We’ve gotten better as a team as the season progressed. Our defense has been solid lately.”

Four players are averaging double figures for McMillan. Bobby Sharp leads the way with 17 points per game and is followed by Jajuan Hammond (14.2), Max Fujii (12.8) and Xavier McCall (12.5).

Sharp and McCall played high school ball at Cardinal Newman while Fujii gained All-Empire Player of the Year honors at Analy. Hammond hails from Fresno.

The Bear Cubs are 25-5 and bring an eight-game winning streak into the playoffs.