The early part of the 2013-14 season finds the Skyline men’s basketball with a 4-2 record. So, the timing couldn’t be any better to make a statement and prove the Trojans are more contender than pretender.
Skyline will get that chance starting Friday when seven other teams from northern California waltz onto the San Bruno campus for the 2013 version of the Skyline Classic. The Trojans will be joined by teams that have a combined 27-27 record — a field that includes the likes of Siskiyous at 7-4 and teams like Marin who come into the three-day tournament at 1-6.
“The teams that have participated in the tournament have been pretty consistent over the years,” said Skyline head coach Justin Piergrossi. “It’s a good bunch of coaches and programs. It’s usually very competitive and there are a bunch of close games. And that’s really what we’re looking for. This year shouldn’t be any different.”
Skyline heads into the 2013 tournament trying to improve on a third-place finish from last year. And this season, with veteran leadership on the team, the Trojans find themselves in a position to build some really nice momentum as the Coast Conference schedule lurks around the corner.
“We’re just trying to get better,” Piergrossi said. “I know we haven’t played as well as we can. We’re still not shooting the ball very well. But we have been playing relatively well on defense and that’s enabled us to keep the games close. We’ve made the plays when they’ve needed to be made.”
The Trojans have won two straight because of that defense and an intensity on the glass. They’ve gotten early offensive contributions from two players in particular — Brandon Berkovatz and Kevin Brandenberg.
“We’re able to count on Brandon and Kevin every night out,” Piergrossi said. “And not just in games, but practice as well. We can really count on them to deliver.”
Berkovatz has delivered to the tune of almost 18 points a game during this winning stretch of basketball. He also pulled down nine rebounds in a win over Gavilan and 12 more in a one-point win over Napa Valley.
Brandenberg has been huge, as well. He’s averaging 14 points per game, but more important, has been his defensive effort and rebounding.
“Kevin has just been great on the glass,” Piergrossi said. “He’s got a great motor on him. You have to have a couple of guys you know you’re going to get something from.”
Skyline begins Classic play Friday night with an 8 p.m. game against Marin. The championship game of the Classic will be decided Sunday at 4 p.m.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on defense and rebounding,” Piergrossi said. “We just have to get consistent. And with the regular season coming up, we’re going to have to be consistent. This is our second year running this offense so we should be a little further along than where we are. We just need to knock down some shots.”
Another team with a tournament around the corner is the College of San Mateo Lady Bulldogs. The always entertaining Tom Martinez Invitational begins in a week and finds CSM with a 5-3 record following a couple of solid wins against Feather River and Shasta colleges.
Key in those victories was the play of McKenna Hilton, who has started the season by solidifying her role as the team’s go-to scorer. She’s the only one averaging double digits at 12.5 a game. Julianne Llacer, Chureel Kanongata’a and Amanda Lee have also contributed to the Bulldogs’ winning record.
The story of the season’s initial stages though is probably the play of Isiah Hakim, a guard for Cañada College. Yes, the Colts are struggling with a 2-9 record, but it looks like Hakim is really heating up.
In a three-game stretch over at the Monterey Bay Classic, Hakim caught fire, averaging 29 points per game — including a season-high 37 points against Los Medanos.
The Colts went 1-2 during that tournament and return to action this weekend at the Quinn Heary Memorial tourney.
MENLO COLLEGE IN TOP 25
Menlo women’s basketball jumped another spot to No. 22 in the most recent NAIA Division II coaches’ top 25 poll, the NAIA national office announced Tuesday.
The improvement comes on the heels of the Lady Oaks’ perfect 2-0 record last week as they swept their matchups in the Cal Maritime Classic with 65-58 win over CSU San Marcos and a 96-69 drubbing of Bethesda University.
Menlo has now won five-straight games dating back to Nov. 23.
The Oaks have now earned a top-25 ranking in each of the first three polls released this season and has improved one spot in every poll.
They return to action Saturday, Dec. 14 with a non-conference game at CSU Stanislaus. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.