The last time San Diego Mesa College men's basketball defeated San Diego City College happened on January 23, 2013. On Wednesday night, with their most complete performance, the Olympians snapped the 11-game losing streak by thumping the Knights 83-59.
Mesa improves its conference record to 5-3 and 10-16 overall.
The victory by the Olympians also denied San Diego City College head coach Mitch Charlens his 300th victory. "I told the guys before the game, not on our floor," states head coach Travis Nichols. "Mitch is a great coach and he will get his 300th win, but tonight, we used that as extra motivation to make sure it did not happen at Mesa College."
"Our coaching staff really wanted this win for the program," adds Cameron Hill. "Our mindset from the start of the game was to dominate. We committed 100% to make our coaches proud and give the other schools a preview of what they'll face next season. We've always been seen as the underdog, that's ok, because now they're figuring out that this dog has bite."
Hill went 8-13 from the floor and finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Throughout the season, the coaching staff has preached the importance of defense and to not let mental lapses occur towards the latter part of the game. There have been games in which Mesa had the lead late in the fourth quarter but fell short due to untimely turnovers and lack of execution.
One sign the team is buying into the coach's philosophy is the hustle and stellar play of the defense. The Olympians dove for loose balls, grabbed rebounds with authority, and guarded the paint aggresively.
"We wanted to send a message and to also finish the season strong," states freshman Adrian Lee. "We had nothing to lose and we played our best game tonight. The coaches have been telling us all year that once we finally put it all together, we will be hard to beat."
Lee was phenomenal on defense and finished with 6 blocks, 12 points, and 17 rebounds. "I take it personal when I play defense. I am willing to sacrifice everything to get the job done," states Lee. "The coaches create challenges for me before every game and I try my best to achieve them without forcing or going off script."
The play from freshmen Josh Johnson and Will Bailey arrived at the perfect time. The staff did a tremendous job substituting the appropriate players, which lead to the starters finishing the game strong. "Josh stepped up today, he provided us quality minutes off the bench which kept Aren fresh," explains Nichols. "Will Bailey has accepted his role on the team and that is why you see him looking confident. They both are becoming better all-around players not just relying solely on jump shots."
Another change in the strategy was to decrease the amount of jump shots. Travis, along with his assistant coaches spent several days watching game footage from the first game inside Mesa's state of the art media room. The media room was designed and created specifically for the athletic teams to review tapes.
"Our media room is one of the best coaching tools we can utilize. We watched the game twice and broke down what we did wrong," states Nichols. "We were able to show our players their mistakes on tape, and a light bulb finally went on. We showed the team the amount of jump shots we took. We are taking jump shots, while our opponents are taking us off the dribble for layups. We love shooting three-pointers, but we need balance, tonight we did that. Video does not lie."
Aren Thomas turned in another solid performance with a game high 20 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals. His ability to break the press along with his knack of penetrating in the paint kept the Knights on their heels.
"We are finally playing to our potential," states Thomas. "We came into this game with a chip on our shoulder and to not be overlooked by naysayers. Although we've hit a couple of bumps this season, when we play like this, it will be hard to stop us."
"This is a new day for our basketball program at Mesa," states Nichols. "We are changing the culture and attitudes of the student athletes who represent this program. Winning is great, but as a staff we love mentoring these young men. As long as they represent themselves and their communities in the right way, we are happy."
The Olympians will play their final home game of the year on Friday, February 22 at Mesa College. They will lock horns against Southwestern College starting at 7:00 p.m.