BC men’s basketball wins 2 in own tourney

Mohamed Bafakih, Reporter


Bakersfield College’s men’s basketball team finally made its home debut in the annual Thanksgiving Tournament, where the Renegades went 2-1 for the weekend and put their early season success to the test against preseason, top-ranked and current sixth-ranked Merritt College.

Prior to the tournament, BC made a quick trip up Highway-99 to visit West Hills Coalinga on Nov. 21 – a team that came off a near-upset overtime win against current seventh-ranked Fresno City College.

Bakersfield jumped out to a 40-28 first half lead and never looked back. BC nearly took twice as many shots (30-for-68), as opposed to West Hill’s (20-for-37) in the game, but an 18-point and nine-rebound performance by swingman Deandre Dickson, on a consistent 9-of-15 shooting, kept Bakersfield in front, despite Dickson being in foul trouble.

Sophomores Alex Daniels and Isaiah Rogers also broke out for the Renegades. Daniels finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Rogers added 11 points to go along with five steals.

The reserves as well came up big for BC as the bench outscored the Falcons’ 26-17. Queens native Jameik Riviere added energy for Bakersfield with 11 points and six assists and C.J. Johnson made his return to the 559 with eight points. Isiaah Bryant also hit two big triples off the bench.

“We took care of the ball and for the most part defended pretty well,” said head coach Rich Hughes following the 73-63 win over West Hills. “We’re getting better.”

With a four-game winning streak intact, Bakersfield (4-1) the following week hosted “predetermined games” as Hughes called it over Thanksgiving weekend. Along with Bakersfield College in Pool A, was Fullerton College and LA Pierce College. In Pool B: Barstow, Merritt, and Porterville College.

The Renegades took the court first on the first day of the tournament on Nov. 28 vs. Barstow – a team desperately looking for their first win.

BC shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and went into the locker room up 35-29. Although Bakersfield managed to turn the game into a double-digit lead early in the second half, Barstow rallied back. Behind Daylin Billingsley’s 15 points and 11 rebounds, the Vikings managed to cut it to a two possession game with just over a minute to go in regulation as BC led 71-65.

Barstow inched closer as John Howard was fouled on a three-point attempt by Daniels, following a pair of split free throws by Riviere and Johnson. Howard, however, missed 2-of-3 free throws which made it 73-66.

Another pair of split free throws by Johnson — who was battling an ankle injury — sealed the deal for the Renegades, as they went on to beat Barstow with a final score of 74-68 increasing their win streak to four games and a 4-1 record. Dickson led all scorers with 24 points to go with 11 rebounds.

The following day, the Renegades faced the Merritt Thunderbirds, which came fresh off a victory the previous night to Fullerton, 76-66.

“It’s a pretty good mark to see where we [Bakersfield] are as far as other teams in the state,” said Hughes.

When asked if this was the biggest challenge up to this point, Hughes replied, “Yes, definitely … definitely the toughest team to play up to this point.”

Merritt’s starters were held in check, but three Thunderbird bench players were in double figures (L. Smith 12, T. King 12, J. Carlton 10) to help lead the T-Birds to a 71-62 victory over BC – ending their four-game winning streak.

“Turnovers. Turnovers… we let Merritt slip away,” said Daniels following his eight point and eight rebound performance.

It was a tough night offensively for the Renegades’ top producer and the state’s top rebounder, Dickson, as he shot just 4-of-16 from the field. Dickson still managed to finish with his fifth double-double of the season (12 points, 14 rebounds) and four blocks despite a cold shooting night.

Riviere, also another major producer, shot well but committing nine of the team’s 22 turnovers created more T-Birds scoring opportunities.

D.J. Wooley tied Riviere in bench scoring with 10 points, a season high for Wooley.

In the final game of the three-day tournament, Bakersfield faced Central Valley foe, Porterville.

Both teams split two games coming in, but only one came out with a winning record – and that was Bakersfield in a nail-biter.

Despite shooting 8-of-33 in the first half, BC created fouls and put Porterville in the double bonus situation with 4:50 to go and converted on 13-of-18 free throw attempts. Bakersfield also forced 12 turnovers in large part to full-court trapping and pressing. BC and Porterville however ended the half all nodded up at 30 apiece.

The Pirates changed things up five minutes into the second period as they went to a 1-3-1 zone defensively.

“We knew that they were going to do it,” said Hughes. “They run a couple different types of zones, so we [coaches] told our team just be prepared for different ones.”

Late in the game, things got interesting. Back-to-back three-pointers by David Wilson made it 63-54 Renegades, with just over four minutes to go, but Porterville was put in the double-bonus with 3:34 remaining.

Both teams shared free throws of their own, but the Pirates getting the better half were able to cut the lead down to just one, 67-66 with 1:45 in regulation.

Johnson and Daniels both made crucial free throws for BC, and the defense kept Porterville in check in the end to help hold off the Pirates from any possible upset as the Renegades grasped onto a two-point victory, 68-66.

Riviere tallied a team-high 18 points off the bench and the Bakersfield defense forced 30 Pirate turnovers.

BC, now 5-2 on the season, is fairly pleased with their performance midway through the preseason.

“We can be one of the best teams,” said second-year guard Isaiah Rogers. “We just got to be on the same page everyday and no letdowns.”

Before BC opens up conference play at home vs. LA Valley on Jan. 7 at 5 p.m., they will travel to Skyline (San Bruno) in a three-day tournament from Dec. 12-14 followed by an exhibition game at LA Pierce and wrap it up at Allan Hancock (Santa Maria) from Dec. 28-30.