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JC basketball: Fresno City teams look to clear last hurdles to state final four

While one more win apiece is all the Fresno City College basketball teams need to reach the state final four, it doesn’t appear that it will come easily for either the men or women.

Standing in the way for the third-seeded men is No. 7 Contra Costa, which outplayed its seeding by defeating No. 2 and then-27-1 Feather River 106-84 on Wednesday. The second-seeded Rams women face No. 3 Sierra, which throttled No. 6 Santa Rosa 72-47.

They’ll play in a Saturday doubleheader at the Fresno City gym, with the women’s game at 5:30 p.m. and the men at 7:30 p.m.

“We just need to keep our focus and keep the same relentless energy for 40 minutes,” said Rams guard Aaron Cameron, who finished with 10 points in the Rams men’s 103-83 victory over No. 11 Monterey Peninsula in Wednesday’s third-round North Regional game. “We know how Coach wants us to play. We know how he subs. We know what we need to do. It’s just a mindset to go out and do it … have a monster mentality.”

Fresno City guard Evan Stillahn, who finished with 15 points against the Lobos, said in addition to that focus, the team is hoping to have strong fan support on its side.

“We need everyone to show up because when we have everyone onboard, we are great,” he said. “We need to continue to play hard, grind-it-out basketball and stay aggressive.”

The Rams (27-6) had it relatively easy Wednesday, finding separation against Monterey Peninsula when Nick Hilton connected on a three-pointer for a 30-22 lead with 7:01 left in the first half. Fresno City kept the pressure on, building a 10-point lead by halftime and forcing 19 turnovers overall in the victory.

The Comets (25-7) come in as the Bay Valley Conference champions and, after an opening-round bye, defeated 10th-seeded Cosumnes River 86-77 to open the postseason.

Jeremiah Alston paced Contra Costa with 25 points in the win over Feather River. He is one of four Comets averaging double figures, led by Anthony Sullen at 16.2 points per game.

“We can’t play like we did (against Monterey) and think we’re going to win on Saturday,” Cameron said. “That will send us home. We have to trust the process and come more hungry than that.”

The Rams women, meanwhile, face a Sierra team that coasted through its first two postseason games.

The Wolverines’ destruction of Santa Rosa was preceded by an 84-62 win over No. 14 Merced. Fresno City (28-3) outlasted No. 10 San Joaquin Delta 68-56 on Wednesday.

Rams guard Natalie Avadis said her team needs to come out with aggression.

“We have to match up with their physicality,” said Avadis, who had 11 points against Delta. “Most of their girls are bigger than us, but we have to play tough and must keep them off the boards because they are a very good rebounding team. We got to play our game, which is a team game and lock down on defense.”

Fresno City forward Heaven Lee, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, agrees.

“We have to play really good defense,” she said. “Try to get as much stops as we can and push the ball on offense while limiting them to one shot and make sure we box out and rebound.”

Sierra (26-6) is led by forward Destinee Bowie, the Big 8 Conference MVP who is averaging 13.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

She is one of three 6-footers on the Wolverines’ roster, including 6-7 Jaimie Curtis, a lightly used reserve.

Avadis said the Rams need to stick to what has worked all season.

“Simple: Play our style of basketball, movement and sharing the basketball,” she said. “They might be bigger than us, but we have to play smarter. Defense wins championships. That is coach (Brian) Tessler’s focus and that is what it’s been all season.”

▪ Rams guard Jasmine Black was named to the second team among NorCal All-State honorees. The Player of the Year is Gabrielle Vigil of top-seeded San Francisco, which faces fourth-seeded Diablo Valley in the other half of the North bracket.

▪ Sequoias’ fifth-seeded men are alive but face top-seeded San Francisco on Saturday. The Giants (20-11) advanced with wins over No. 12 Cabrillo, 76-70 in overtime, and No. 4 Las Positas, 87-81. San Francisco (29-1) has won 20 consecutive games.

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, @agalaviz_TheBee

State JC final eight

Fourth-round matchups in the California Community College Athletic Association basketball playoffs, with winners advancing to the state final four tournament March 12-13 at Las Positas College in Livermore.

MEN

  • North: No. 7 Contra Costa at No. 3 Fresno City, 7:30 p.m.; No. 5 Sequoias at No. 1 City College of San Francisco, 7:30 p.m.
  • South: No. 7 Antelope Valley at No. 3 Chaffey; No. 4 East Los Angeles at No. 1 Saddleback

WOMEN

  • North: No. 3 Sierra at No. 2 Fresno City, 5:30 p.m.; No. 4 Diablo Valley at No. 1 San Francisco, 5:30 p.m.
  • South: No. 6 East Los Angeles at No. 2 Mt. San Jacinto; No. 5 Irvine Valley at No. 1 Mt. San Antonio
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