Jason Leskiw, Sports Editor
The Las Positas Tip-off Classic is a tournament that has been held at Las Positas College for the past seven years. Eight schools from all over northern California come to compete in what is typically a very important test for all teams involved; and more importantly an opportunity for those teams to identify and improve their weaknesses.
The tournament began Thursday and will continue until the championship match on Saturday at 5 p.m.
LPC strays from dominance, but ends first round victorious
The Las Positas Hawks began their season Thursday with a 68-54 tournament victory over Gavilan College. Led by interim Head Coach Ward Farris, the Hawks outscored Gavilan in both halves and then faced Columbia on Friday evening.
Freshman guard Booker Shabazz led the team in scoring during the first matchup with 13 points and sophomore Jacob Conteras and Juwann Springfield both ended the game with 11 points apiece. While the game couldn’t be described using words like dominance, rout or supreme, one could certainly call the outing effective.
Only two players on Gavilan scored more than five points and only 15 field goals were allowed.
“They’re a scrappy team, a team with intensity,” Coach Farris said. “It’s always good to come out and get our feet wet and come out with a win.”
LPC wins in overtime; 101-97
Before the second game, Farris’s only wishes for the match against Columbia were to control the tempo of the game and “master the intensity.”
LPC was able to do that for the most part in the first half, though it was a shootout for the first seven minutes. Shabazz was able to rain down three-pointers and the half ended with another from forward Kellen Sweetwyne during what what was a skirmish for the ball in the final three seconds. Sweetwyne came up with the ball and threw up a hail mary shot that bounced off the backboard and through the net.
One word that could describe Columbia’s play was ‘foul.’
Columbia committed more than eight fouls and turned the ball over two too many times. They did play aggressively, something that put a hitch in Farris’s gameplan.
“I had a look at Columbia (Thursday night) and they’re a good team,” said Farris. Our guys did a good job coming out of the gate with intensity. An issue for us is free throw shooting, we didn’t exactly set the world on fire at the free throw line. I don’t focus on what the refs do, my only concern is what we do.”
There were plenty missed opportunities at the line for LPC as Columbia committed 31 fouls during the 45 minutes of play. 23 of those fouls were shooting fouls and LPC was only able to make 27 points of those. However, forward Joseph Viscuglia was four-for-four from the line and Shabazz was seven-for-eight.
Shabazz was the clear-cut key player of the game with 23 points, 12 of those coming from beyond the arc. Kellen Sweetwyne was also a mass contributor with 22 points.
“(Shabazz) is a gamer,” said Farris. “There’s no ceiling for that guy, he’s got tons of potential.”
Regulation ended with a score of 88-88, resulting in overtime. Las Positas was able to outscore Columbia 13-9 in those five minutes.
LPC falls to Contra Costa College Comets, 83-71
Just after player introductions, a Contra Costa College player was overheard saying:
“It’ll be like taking candy from a baby.”
While the game was a far cry from that sort of ease, the Comets were able to come away with a hard fought win of 83-71.
The key drive for Contra Costa was during the last eight minutes of regulation, going three minutes and 50 seconds with 11 unanswered points. The LPC offense fell flat on their face during that period, though the defensive play had a heartbeat still. The entire second half was a tumultuous one, with more than 10 lead changes and 20 total fouls.
Booker “BT” Shabazz had three fouls in the second half and Justin Wolfe had five during the few minutes he was on the court. LPC had 15 total fouls during the game, but CCC had 18. LPC shot 62 percent from the line, as did CCC.
How it happened:
Joseph Viscuglia was fouled to start the game by sinking one of his two free throws but CCC’s Tyler West was able to counter with a nice jumper from three-point land. The first few minutes of game play included a lot of shots and misses by LPC and tough defensive play on both sides of the ball. CCC favored the perimeter in their shots as they were outsized and outdueled inside the key. CCC was able to sink three consecutive three-pointers but committed two fouls within the first three minutes. Julian Redmon, LPC sophomore forward, was able to answer back with a nice trey jumper that brought the game within two points for LPC.
The intensity that Coach Farris had stressed was not quite there during the first 10 minutes, but was very apparent in the latter part of the half.
Cameron Womack had a nice lay in to tie the game at 11, with 14:45 to go in the first half, but shortly after fouled CCC’s Tyler West and allowing him to sink one of his two shots from the line.
The first was was surely physical as both sides played a tough half-court defense and fought hard around the glass. Booker “B.T.” Shabazz was able to capitalize on the physicality by instigating fouls around the basket. LPC had improved at the line from the past two games, something they would need to do in order to beat such a deep and talented team. LPC was 17 for 27 at the line during regulation.
The smallest of the Comets’ roster, five-foot-six Darius Johnson was the most impressive player in blue, with 5 total points and a handful of assists. Johnson’s statline may not be impressive, but the effort that he showed was what set him apart from any other player.
Juwann Springfield and Kellen Sweetwyne worked well together inside the key and the perimeter play also hinted at improvement from the first two games. Even LPC’s smaller players were able to reach over the heads of the CCC forwards to make plays against the glass. This also worked against LPC, allowing eight free throw attempts on five total fouls.
During the beginning of the second half, LPC came out strong defending the post and moving the ball on offense. They led by nine points within minutes, but shortly after that total was nearly inverse. Within five minutes of that same half, the lead had changed four times. LPC stopped moving the ball around and was unable to use what had aided them in their runs and instead played soft basketball. The lead changed a few more times but at the 12 minute mark, CCC began a lead that was never reversed.
CCC went on an 11-to-nothing run over nearly four minutes and put the nail in the coffin for LPC’s chance at bringing home the three foot high championship trophy. Shortly after, tempers began to flare with a technical foul after another foul was called.
LPC had lost all composure at that point, composure that they showed little of during the final five minutes. There was also little indication that the loss bothered most of the players, with little to no readily identifiable emotion listed on their faces.
The Hawks had a nice run during the tournament however and showed that they have something special that they will have the opportunity to turn into something magical, if they choose to do so.