Article, 2006-2007 Season - Ohlone College Renegades Men's Basketball

Ohlone sights on Elite 8, state

By Steve R. Waterhouse, Staff writer.

Thursday, March 8, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

After practice Tuesday, coach John Peterson gathered his Ohlone College men's basketball team to go over a few things.

"Make sure to bring a toothbrush and probably a pillow," he said. "Don't stay up too late. It's probably a good idea to start getting used to getting up early."

It wasn't a lecture, it was more like a question-and-answer session.

The players had some questions about food, and the ride down to Fresno for the Elite Eight, which pits the final four teams from Northern California versus the final four teams from Southern California.

After posting wins over Redwoods (86-65) and San Joaquin Delta (63-60), the No.2-seeded team in the North—Ohlone—find itself in the Elite Eight where it will face the South's No.9-seeded and Cinderella team—Antelope Valley—today at 1 p.m. at Selland Arena.

"I think they're all going to be nervous leading up to the game," Peterson said. "It's a different environment. You're playing in an arena versus a gym. I think it's going to come down to point-guard play."

Ohlone (29-3) made the state regionals in 1985 under the supervision of then-coach Dick Walsh. However in those days, the state broke the junior colleges into a big-school division and a small-school division. Ohlone was in the small-school division and fell short of the state crown.

Ohlone, which has claimed the most wins in school history this season, likes to force the issue. Point guards Bert Whittington and Willis Gardner—both sophomores—have been the catalysts all season. The duo average 20.6 points and 7.4 assists combined per game.

"We pretty much know what we're going to get from Jermaine (Smith) and Renardo (Bass)," Peterson said. "It comes down to those two guys (Whittington and Gardner)."

Smith is the big man in the middle. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is a banger who averages 9.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Bass, a talented and athletic 6-2 guard averages 7.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

And the Renegades, who average 79.7 points per game, aren't limited to those players. This team goes 12 deep. Peterson and his team realized how important a deep bench goes over the last couple of weeks.

Guard Sean Amos had to take a leave from the team last week to attend a friend's funeral on the East Coast. Guard Giovanni Vernon and Whittington have been battling a flu bug, and both missed several days of practice. Guard Allen Hester (10.3 points per game) has a rib injury and caught the flu.

"We've been able to grind it out with all that," Peterson said. "That's impressive."

All are back and healthy and will be ready for today's game against an Antelope Valley team that is riding quite a wave.

Unlike Ohlone, the Marauders have been to this stage before. In 1997 they made the Elite Eight. In 2004, they made the State Final Four. In both instances they failed to win the state title.

Antelope Valley opened the playoffs with an 88-57 win over No. 8 Long Beach City. On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Bakersfield was upended by No. 17 Santa Ana, 92-91.

That paved the way for the Marauders, who earned a home game against Santa Ana in the next round and went on to post a 76-75 win.

The Marauders finished third in the Foothill Conference with an 11-3 mark. They average 76.7 points per game while yielding 65.7 per. They're led by 6-5 guard Ade Dagunduro, who averages 17.9 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. They also feature another 6-5 guard in Robert Arnold, who averages 14.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.

"The two biggest disparities are we play more guys, and we're deeper at guard, but they're much longer and more athletic. They've got length," Peterson said. "We're 6-2 and long, they're 6-5 and long. It puts pressure on our defense."

The winner of the Ohlone-Antelope Valley game will play the winner of Yuba-Ventura on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The title game will be Sunday at 3 p.m.

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