Cabrillo College lost to West Valley,76-43, in Coast Conference South Division action on Jan. 20. (G.P. Schepler/The Pajaronian file photo)

APTOS— The Cabrillo College men’s basketball team had last week’s matchup against West Valley circled as one of its critical games of the season.

Shortly after losing two heartbreakers by three points, a win would have brought the Seahawks back to .500 for the season.

However, the Vikings—the No. 7 ranked community college in California—was too much for Cabrillo to overcome following a 76-43 loss in Coast Conference South Division action on Jan. 20. 

“West Valley is the cream of the crop when it comes to conference,” said Cabrillo head coach James Page. “They’ve won back-to-back conference championships. Having them on the schedule is always a big game.”

Cabrillo came out knocking down some shots and kept the game close early on, but the physicality of West Valley (18-3, 4-1) drove the score out of reach.

The Seahawks started off their season strong, winning six of their first eight games. However, the narrative has changed as they have won just two of their last ten games.

This has been, in large part, due to a very tough schedule loaded with high level opponents such as San Jose (17-4, 4-1) and Gavilan (14-7, 3-2).

Even so, the Seahawks have nearly come out on top for many of these games.

“We’ve lost six games to teams ranked in the top ten by three points or less,” Page said. “The inability to finish games is just what happens when you have a really young group of guys. We’ve got ten freshmen out there, they’re learning what it takes.”

Darius Best has led the Seahawks in scoring with 18 points per game this season.

Cabrillo has found success scoring throughout the season, with seven 90-plus point games so far.

“Darius is one of the better scorers in Northern California,” Page said. “He’s an outstanding young man, a pleasure to coach. He’s our spark plug offensively. They made a conscious effort to make things tough on him.”

West Valley’s suffocating defense restricted Cabrillo to their lowest scoring game of the season, scoring 12 fewer than their previous season low of 55 against Napa Valley on Nov. 12.

The Seahawks gave up significantly more offensive rebounds leading to second chance points.

“I think it was definitely something we anticipated to see, but that’s just what happened today,” Best said. “They brought the fight to us.”

The Cabrillo baseball team showed up and brought energy for the Seahawks from the stands.

Cabrillo nearly managed to bring the deficit down to single digits late in the first half, but a barrage of Viking 3-pointers ended their short-lived momentum.

“I love to see the fans in the crowd, especially student athletes,” Best said. “It’s just exciting to see sports supporting other sports, so I love that.”

Joe Rush has come off the bench for the last few games to become one of Cabrillo’s leading sophomores. He is the second leading scorer with 235 points in 18 games.

Despite having an average of 13.1 ppg and serving as a walking highlight reel, Rush has served effectively off the bench in the Manu Ginóbili role this season.

Page believes it’s not as important who starts the game, but who finishes.

“We had a game against Monterey that our backup point guard at the time, Taray Winfrey, played really well,” Best said. “Joe is still always in crunch time late.”

West Valley was on fire from 3-point range throughout the game, while Cabrillo struggled shooting throughout the evening especially from the free-throw line.

“The shots weren’t falling,” Page said. “Also have to give credit to West Valley, they played a really solid defensive game. The game was extremely physical which plays a little more into their hands.”

Much of the Seahawks’ offense is created in transition off missed shots, in which the Vikings were able neutralize due to their offensive rebounding prowess.

Despite the final score, the Seahawks will take away the intensity in which they played against one of the top schools in the state.

Their 9-11 record is not indicative of their young talent, or their potential upside.

“If you want to beat the better teams in conference, you have to play better than we did tonight,” Page said. “I think we have seen what we are capable of doing.”

Cabrillo (9-11, 1-4) will play at De Anza (2-17, 0-4) on Wednesday at 5:30pm before returning for a three-game home stand.

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