San Francisco City College seeks its second California Community College men's basketball championship in three seasons as it looks to cap its first unbeaten season at Cosumnes River College.
The Rams (31-0) take on Chaffey College (26-6) in a semifinal at CRC today at 7 p.m., following the 5 p.m. semifinal between Merritt College of Oakland (18-12) against Mt. San Antonio College (27-3).
The championship game is Sunday at 1 at CRC.
San Francisco, also a decades-long JC football power, is in the postseason for the 30th time. The Rams won state titles in 1962 and 2011 and were runner-up in 1966, '78, '81, '86 and 2010.
The 1986 team lost in the finals to Sacramento City College, led by All-American guard Kenny Drummond.
Chaffey's best showing was a third-place effort in 1994. Mt. Sac was a runner-up in 1955 and made its first appearance in 28 years in 1985.
Merritt, the field's upstart darkhorse, was runner-up in 1958, sixth in 1961 and is in the state final four for the first time in 52 seasons. Merritt opened Northern California regional play with an outbraket 63-62 win over American River College, then beat defending state champion and NorCal No. 2 Fresno City 100-83, downed Ohlone 79-76 and Delta 79-75.
The Thunderbirds as a No. 15 NorCal seed is the lowest seed to reach a state final four. They are led by Eric Nelson, averaging 11.2 points and 10 rebounds. Mt. Sac is led by Corey Allen (21.1 points) and Garrett Nevels (19.8).
San Francisco is led by sophomore guard Delon Wright out of Los Angeles, the younger brother of Dorrell Wright of the NBA's 76ers. Guards Shawn Smith and Dulanie Robinson average 11 and 10.8 points, respectively. The Rams are winning games by an average of 25 points. Only four teams have been within 15 of San Francisco, the last time against Sierra in an 88-73 San Francisco win on Dec. 14.
The Rams have cruised in the playoffs, including taking out NorCal No. 3 Santa Rosa 88-54 on Saturday. with Wright going for 29 points, 11 rebounds, five blocked shots, five assists and five steals.
"Our top five is better than everybody's top five, but we can't play these guys for 40 minutes the way we play, because we pressure a lot," Rams coach Justin Labagh said. "You need the bench to step up. And last game they played out of their minds."
The Rams are attempting to become just the fifth state-championship team to finish unbeaten, and the first from Northern California. The others: Riverside in 1964 (35-0); Compton in 1970 (33-0); Fresno in 2005 (34-0) and Fullerton in 2006 (37-0).
Chaffey won a regional title in 1931 and the 1994 team is being inducted into the school Hall of Fame. Guard Justin Long averages 16 a game, and he's led his team to three double-digit playoff victories. Chaffey averages 88 points a game and San Francisco 87.
Mt. Sac, preparing for Merritt, is in the shadow of their 32-0 women's peers who seek a repeat and the program's fifth title overall. Mt. Sac is led by old/new coach Clark Maloney, who started coaching at the school in 1993 before coaching St. Thomas Univeristy in Florida.
- Joe Davidson
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