Former Viking Kobre helps lead SRJC to first state championship

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Former Montgomery star Alec Kobre scored a team-high 17 points in Sunday's championship victory. He was named tournament MVP. (SRJC Athletics photo)

Former Montgomery star Alec Kobre scored a team-high 17 points in Sunday’s championship victory. He was named tournament MVP. (SRJC Athletics photo)

Santa Rosa JC, a team that began the season 3-6, completed a remarkable turnaround Sunday afternoon in Norwalk by capturing the California Community College Athletic Association State Tournament title with a 73-67 victory over San Bernardino Valley.

And, as was the case Saturday night in the Bear Cubs’ narrow semifinal win over Chaffey, Kai Drewry came up with the biggest shot of the game.

This time, the sophomore from Larkspur made an acrobatic layup with 25 seconds remaining to give his team a 69-67 lead.

With defenders in front of him trying to block the shot, Drewry scooped the ball onto the rim.

“I shot it with my right hand going to my left,” Drewry said. “I figured if I could get the ball on the rim and put some English on it, it had a chance to go in.”

Drewry was hit on the play but no foul was called. He was on the ground watching as the ball slipped through the goal.

San Bernardino, the top seed out of Southern California, quickly raced down the court and missed a shot.

Center Luke Cocheran grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 11 seconds on the clock. The 6-foot-10 sophomore from Loomis swished two free throws to make it 71-67.

On the Wolverines’ next possession, Gerry Blakes threw up an errant 3-point try. Alec Kobre got the rebound and was fouled with two seconds left. He sank both shots for the final margin.

Kobre scored a team-high 17 and was selected the tournament’s most valuable player.

The victory was the first for a men’s team in the school’s 96-year history and the magical outcome almost got away.

The Bear Cubs appeared to have the game in hand with two minutes to go. A steal and a dunk by Drewry and two free throws by Matthew Hayes bumped the lead to 67-59.

However, San Bernardino scored eight points in a minute to pull even at 67. Blakes, who is going to play for Arizona State next season, scored six in the run.

“I can’t even imagine how bad we’d feel if we’d lost the state tournament after leading by eight with two minutes to go,” Drewry said.

“We didn’t panic. We’re a confident group and knew if we settled down, we’d come back and win.

“We never quit playing with confidence.”

The Bear Cubs led 3-2 and that was their only lead of the first half. Their biggest deficit was seven points and it was 32-29 at halftime.

Santa Rosa was that close even though Matthew Hayes, who usually leads the team in scoring, didn’t have a point.

Despite trailing against a team that had beaten the Bear Cubs by 16 points in a tournament in Riverside last Dec. 10, coach Craig McMillan was brimming with confidence as he walked into the locker room at halftime.

“I told the guys we’re going to win the game,” McMillan said. “We were playing good defense and were missing shots we ordinarily make.

“I said if we keep playing solid defense, the shots would start falling.”

McMillan proved to be a prophet. The Bear Cubs shot 52 per cent from the field after intermission.

From beyond the 3-point arc, they connected at a 54 per cent clip.

Santa Rosa wound up with four players in double figures. Following Kobre were: Drewry (16), Davone Oliver (14) and Hayes (11).

Blakes led San Bernardino with 23 and Keith Smith had 21.

“The way I saw it, the difference in the game was that we played 40 minutes of really good defense and kept San Bernardino off the boards,” McMillan said

When asked if he thought about the state tournament when his team was 3-6, he responded:

“I knew we were better than our record but I wasn’t thinking that much down the line. We played a tough pre-conference schedule and as it turned out, those games prepared us for the Big 8 and post-season.”

The Bear Cubs won the Big 8 and came out of the NorCal Regionals with the No. 1 seed.

Santa Rosa (24-8) ended the season on a 13-game winning streak.

“This isn’t the most talented team I’ve coached since coming to Santa Rosa,” said McMilllan, in his 14th season after a great playing career at Cloverdale High and the University of Arizona.

“However, I haven’t had a team with more heart than this one. They are truly an amazing group.”

They also top the list of the 91 junior colleges that play basketball in California.

Men’s junior college basketball

CCCAA State Tournament championship game

SRJC 73, San Bernardino Valley 67

Top scorers: SRJC — Alec Kobre 17, Kai Drewry 16, Davone Oliver 14, Matthew Hayes 11, Luke Cocheran 6, Corey Hammell 6, Darin Grayer 3. SBV — Gerry Blakes 23, Keith Smith 21.

Halftime: San Bernardino Valley 32, SRJC 29

Records: SRJC 24-8, SBV 29-8

Notable: Kobre, selected the most valuable player in the final four, made five 3-point shots…Overall, the Bear Cubs knocked down 10 of 23 treys … The Wolverines made good on 4 of 13 beyond the arc … Santa Rosa was 21 of 23 from the foul line and San Bernardino converted 15 of 17 … Cocheran was SRJC’s top rebounder with nine … Tymarieh Dixon led SBV with 10 … Hayes, the most valuable player in the Big 8 Conference, scored all 11 of his points after intermission … The Bear Cubs will arrive back in Santa Rosa today.

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