PREVIEW: City College men’s basketball looking for ‘that edge’ in state quarterfinal matchup Friday

No. 7 Knights vie for Final Four in 1 p.m. matchup against No. 8 Yuba College
Keavie Love (1) gets blocked by Allan Handcock defender Mylo Santos (3) during the hard fought 64-61 overtime sweet sixteen win at Harry West Gym, Saturday, March 9 2024. Photo by Danny Straus/City Times Media
Keavie Love (1) gets blocked by Allan Handcock defender Mylo Santos (3) during the hard fought 64-61 overtime sweet sixteen win at Harry West Gym, Saturday, March 9 2024. Photo by Danny Straus/City Times Media

When sporting teams reach for the pinnacle of success, as both San Diego City College and Yuba College men’s basketball have done in qualifying for the 2024 California Community College Athletic Association state championship tournament, the difference between achievement and falling short is sometimes hard to see.

Knights head coach Mitch Charlens: “It’s all about having that edge.”

49ers head coach Doug Cornelius: “It’s definitely a little bit of luck.”

Whether it’s edge, luck or something else, the Knights (26-4, 15-1) and 49ers (28-2, 16-0) will be looking for it when they meet in the 3C2A quarterfinals, Friday, 1 p.m. at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. 

Yuba, the Bay Valley Conference champions, qualified for the Elite Eight after beating Skyline College 63-51 in a 3C2A north region semifinal and then defeating San Jose City College 68-59 in a regional final. 

City reached the Elite Eight with 3C2A south region wins over Pasadena City College 87-69 and a thrilling overtime victory over Allan Hancock 64-61

“It’s a huge moment to get to the Elite Eight,” Chalens said in an interview this week. “It’s what everybody wants to do.”

The 2023-2024 San Diego City College Men’s basketball team celebrates together after advancing to the school’s first Elite 8 since 2018 at Harry West Gym, Saturday, March 9 2024. Photo by Danny Straus/City Times Media

Both Charlens and Cornelius know the weight of this opportunity. 

Charlens has been to the Elite Eight as a player, assistant coach and head coach, with his 2017 Knights winning the state championship. Cornelius’s teams have been to the Elite Eight seven times and are still looking for their first state title.

The two teams are somewhat familiar with each other, having met in the Grossmont College tournament championship game the past two seasons. The Knights defeated the 49ers 71-69 on Dec. 3, 2023. City holds a 4-2 advantage over Yuba in games over the last 10 years.  

“The year that San Diego City won the state championship,” Cornelius said. “We beat them during the regular season, and they beat us in the first game of the final eight. Hopefully we can reverse that trend.”

The Dec. 3, 2023 loss was Yuba’s first of the season, with their second coming three days later on Dec. 6. They haven’t lost since, winning 22 games in a row. 

“They’re on quite a roll,” Charlens said. “Winning that number of games in a row and only losing two all year is crazy.”

The 49ers are a deep team with 11 players averaging 20 minutes or more playing time per game this season. The Knights have six players with 19 minutes or more playing time.

“We are definitely deeper than most of the teams that I’ve taken down there, “ Cornelius said. 

On a roster full of returning players, the 49ers are led on the offensive end by sophomores No. 12 Devon Malcomb, who averages 15.6 points per game, No. 11 Caden Flowers (13.1 ppg) and No. 32 Majer Sullivan (11.1 ppg). 

“Malcolm is a force to be reckoned with. He’s super athletic.” Charlens said. “Flowers can shoot from anywhere. And you can’t foul him either, He’s a great free throw shooter.”

Yuba is also a force on the boards, averaging 41.2 rebounds per game and outrebounding their opponents by an average of 13.4 per game. For comparison, the Knights average 34.9 rebounds per game with an average rebound margin of 3 per game. 

In their regional final victory over Allan Hancock, City was outrebounded and outscored in the paint by large margins. 

Charlens knows his team will need to adjust to a more physical style of play and hands-off officiating in the state championship tournament. Finessing it under the boards will not give them an advantage.

City College guard Al Green (3) is interviewed by Vince Outlaw (left) and Joe Panek (right) after City College’s win over Allan Handcock, clinching the school’s first Elite 8 appearance since 2018 at Harry West Gym, Saturday, March 9 2024.

“Our guys are so skilled and so athletic, they can err on the side of wanting to lean on that,” Charlens said. “In playoff games against physical teams, that’s not going to work because the ball will take a funny bounce here or there.” 

“If you’re not hitting somebody on the rebound, you’re not getting the ball,” Charlens added.

That Knight athleticism is something that Cornelius and his 49ers are planning for. 

“San Diego matches us, man-for-man with size and athleticism and probably more athleticism,” Cornelius said. “It’s going to be physical because Mitch gets those guys to be really, really tough.”

To find that winning edge, and maybe a bit of luck, amidst all the hoopla and pageantry of the state tournament, Charlens knows his team will need to put the distractions away, at least for the time being. 

“I’ve asked my guys to try somehow to put all that aside,” Charlens said. “Let’s concentrate on winning this thing.” 

“We can look back and enjoy these moments after trying to be laser focused.”

Here are the video streaming and game time details of the 2024 3C2A Men’s and Women’s Basketball State Championships – 3C2A.

  • All games will be streamed via BAOSN on a pay-per-view basis. Prices are $12 (plus fees) for each day. Archived views are available the days following each round for $15 per day.
  • Quarterfinals (Fri., Mar. 15)
    • (3N) Yuba (28-2) vs. (2S) San Diego City (26-4), 1 p.m.
    • (4S) Cerro Coso (25-6) vs. (1N) vs. West Valley (30-0), 3 p.m.
    • (3S) West Los Angeles (26-4) vs. (2N) College of the Sequoias (25-5), 5 p.m.
    • (4N) Cabrillo (25-5) vs. (1S) Fullerton, 7 p.m.
  • Semifinals (Sat., Mar. 16)
    • Yuba/SD City winner vs. Cerro Coso/West Valley winner, 5 p.m.
    • West L.A./Sequoias winner vs. Cabrillo/Fullerton winner, 7 p.m.
  • Championship (Sun. March 17)
    • Semifinal winners, 3:30 p.m.
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