BARSTOW • With both the men's and women's Barstow Community College basketball teams 'on the bubble' for making playoffs, both need as many wins as possible down the stretch. On Saturday, each squad picked up a crucial 'W'.
The Vikings and Lady Vikings hosted College of the Desert, and swept a doubleheader from the Roadrunners. First the Barstow women put a 79-56 hurt on Desert, followed by the men hanging on for a 79-73 victory.
Lady Vikings win big
Game one was never in doubt. Though both teams started slow, when the Lady Vikings hit their stride, there was no stopping them.
Once Barstow started scoring in the first half, it did a good job of spreading out the offense. Not only did all five starters put up points, led by Noella Evans' 10 points, but the reserves stepped up, as well. Ashley Segarra came off the bench and drained a 3-pointer, while Jasmin Cruz picked up four points, and Shawniqua Norwood and Audrey Donald three apiece.
The Lady Vikings held a 16-point lead by halftime and just kept building from there. While a big win is a nice thing to earn, getting a big lead can bring its own unique problems, which Barstow head coach Tim Woods had to guard against. Even with the lead growing, Woods kept calling time-outs to keep his players' heads in the game.
"We weren't always executing what we talked about before time-outs and at halftime. It's all about execution," said the coach. "Sometimes when you have a big lead, you look at the scoreboard and lose focus. I just wanted to keep everyone focused."
Even though this game was in the bag, with the postseason around the corner, the coach was looking at the bigger picture.
"This is a step closer, but we're preparing for the next game," said Woods.
The win moves the Lady Vikings to .500 in the Foothill Conference, at 5-5, and 11-13 overall. The Roadrunners drop to 5-18, 2-8.
Leading the Vikings offense was Evans with 18 points, along with three rebounds and two assists, while Karissa Hayter had 15 points, four boards and three assists. Norwood was also in double figures, with 11 points. In all, 10 players scored.
The Vikings have four games remaining, and if they win all of them, it's not guaranteed, but they'll likely grab a playoff berth. Winning-out will be a challenge, especially against Mt. San Jacinto - where Barstow will be this Wednesday - which has 21 wins on the season.
"We need to stay focused," said Norwood. "Our coach reminded us a couple of times today not to get too comfortable with the big lead."
"I think we have a good chance," said Evans of her team's postseason odds. "We have to take care of the little things; turnovers, making the extra pass. But I think we've improved a lot over this season."
"If we execute, we'll be ok," said Hayter. "Overall, I'm happy with how we played today. I just hope we keep progressing."
"The next two will be tough ones," coach Woods said of Mt. San Jacinto and Antelope Valley. "But if we take at least three of them, we have a chance."
The Lady Vikings have one home game left, on Feb. 20 against Victor Valley.
Men hang on
While the women took a few minutes to heat up, the Barstow men came charging out of the gate in their match. They had built up a 20-point edge by halftime, only to be left to battle down the stretch to preserve the victory.
"In the first half, we had more emotion, we were livelier," said Vikings head coach Reggie Howard. "Then when we got up by 20, we kind of stepped back a bit. We started playing not to lose instead of playing to win."
The Vikings ran all over their opposition in the first 20 minutes. The Roadrunners took their shots, but had trouble against the Barstow defense. When boxed out, they let it fly from the outside, but went only 2-for-14 in the first half on perimeter shots, and 9-for-34 from the field.
The Vikings, meanwhile, kept collecting points. Emani Gant netted 10 points, while Evan Jenkins had nine, including a trey, with three's also from Shey Mataele, Erik Burns, Nate Lopez and Richard Stamps.
The Roadrunners, however, had no intention of quitting. Even trailing by 20 at the half, they came out strong in the second.
"They can shoot and score, and they made adjustments," said Howard of Desert. "If you don't protect that three-point line, you're in trouble."
While the defense in the first half rattled the Roadrunners into making hasty outside shots, their adjustments allowed them more time to set up, and they started knocking down those three's. Jarred Kinsey, who started but went scoreless in the first, netted 17 points in the second, 12 of them from the perimeter, with Andre Conley draining two three's.
Desert would make runs and pare the Vikings' lead down to the single digits, getting as close as four at one point, before Barstow would retake the momentum. It was nip-and-tuck all through the last 15 minutes.
"We played great in the first half, we shot above our normal average," said coach Howard. "In the second, we stepped back down."
Still, the Vikings had enough to pull out the win. Jeremiah Wilson was steady offensively all game and led the victors with 18 points and nine rebounds, with Gant right behind with 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Mataele had 14 points, and Jenkins 11.
With the win, the Vikings are 7-15, 5-5. Like the ladies, they're in the position of needing to win their remaining four games for a shot at playoffs.
There are two home games left for the Vikings. They'll host Chaffey on Saturday, and Victor Valley on Feb. 20. That final home game is Coaches v. Cancer Night, with fundraising festivities planned for halftime of the men's game. Those who would like to put some pressure on coach Howard can wager on his foul shooting abilities. The coach will shoot free throws for one minute, with pledges currently being taken. Any amount can be pledged, with the total determined by how many shots are made. To make a pledge, call 760-252-2411 ext. 7233.