Article, 2009-2010 Season - Ohlone College Renegades Men's Basketball

Ohlone shooting for conference basketball titles

By Matthew Artz.

Thursday, February 25, 2010—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area: The Oakland Tribune.

FREMONT—March has typically not been kind to the Ohlone College men's basketball team.

Over the past decade, the Renegades have fielded one of the better squads in California, but it's inevitably March Sadness in Fremont when the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Basketball Tournament comes around.

Last year, Ohlone lost a squeaker at home in the junior college equivalent of the NCAA's Sweet 16. Two years before that the team blew a 16-point lead in the second half of the quarterfinals.

Now, with the 22-4 Renegades scheduled to tip off the tournament at home Saturday against Shasta College, the team hopes to finally bring a championship to Epler Gymnasium. (Tonight, Ohlone's women's team will take on Contra Costa College, also at Epler.)

"We want it so bad," sophomore point guard Quaran Johnson said. "That's what's driving us. We see there's a realistic chance to win it."

Ohlone has never won a state title, and until Coach John Peterson took over 10 years ago, the program struggled to produce a winner.

But during Peterson's tenure, Ohlone has captured five conference titles and hasn't had a losing season.

This year's squad has won 17 of its last 18 games and is the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Peterson says this isn't the most talented team he's coached at Ohlone, but is the most cohesive.

"The way they play together as a group and in terms of how they get along together, it's the best one hands down," he says.

It doesn't take much to notice that Ohlone College basketball isn't the big time.

Games usually draw about 250 fans to the 2,200-person capacity gym, where the only two advertisements are for Chipotle Mexican Grill and The Cheese Taster Delicatessen.

Peterson is also a full-time college instructor, teaching, among other things, Pilates and badminton.

And not only are there no athletic scholarships, but the out-of-state players, who make up a majority of the squad, pay much higher tuition fees than students from Fremont.

Because Ohlone doesn't have the budget for recruiting trips, Peterson assembles his team by watching game films and talking to coaches around the country. Johnson came to Ohlone last year from Philadelphia, where a friend recommended the program.

"I decided to take a chance to come on out here, even though it was so far," said Johnson, who rents a house with several teammates. The players, all of whom are full-time students, mostly hang out together—practicing, studying and playing games.

"We're so close, it's like a family," Johnson said.

But in the transient world of junior college athletics, families don't stay together very long. Like several of his teammates, Johnson expects to transfer next year to a four-year college, hopefully one that offers him a full scholarship.

He just wants his last game with Ohlone to be for the title next month in Thousand Oaks.

"It would mean everything," he said. "I've never won any kind of state championship."

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