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IF YOU GO

Who: No. 4 Santa Rosa Junior College vs. No. 13 Las Positas

What: CCCAA men’s basketball Northern California Regionals

Where: Santa Rosa Junior College

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

That super clean record through conference was great, but it means little to nothing now.

The Santa Rosa Junior College men’s basketball team ran through conference play with nary a loss, going undefeated in the Big 8 for the first time since 2003, according to coach Craig McMillan.

And while that is a considerable achievement, there is no looking back and there is no looking beyond the Bear Cubs’ tournament opener against a dangerous Las Positas squad.

“I’m only concerned about this game Saturday,” McMillan said.

So no celebrating their remarkable conference run, no toasting their haul of all-conference honors. The opening round of the California Community College Regionals needs the team’s collective focus.

The No. 4 Bear Cubs (23-4 overall and 16-0 in the Big 8) host the No. 13 Las Positas Hawks (6-6 in the Coast-North Conference and 18-10 overall) at 7 p.m. Saturday night.

The matchup is interesting in that it looks like a tale of teams on two trajectories.

The preseason CCCAA poll had SRJC at No. 13 in the state. Las Positas, in Livermore, was ranked No. 7. That ranking and those that followed had the Bear Cubs fall to 18 and then 19, then back to 18, then 14, and 10 and seventh. In the most recent rankings explainer is this comment: “Santa Rosa is riding a 14-game win streak and it appears there is nothing the Cubs can’t overcome.”

Or no team they can’t beat. Since that last state ranking, the Bear Cubs won five more, running their conference record to a perfect 16-0.

“It’s really hard to go undefeated in every conference game, even if you are a dominant team,” McMillan said.

The implication is that the Bear Cubs are not a dominant team. At the halfway mark, McMillan described his team not as a steamroller, but a group of guys that finds a way to win. Each night it might be a different way, but it always happened.

Big 8 Player of the Year Skylar Chavez is leading the charge. A freshman who prepped at Drake High in San Anselmo, Chavez is averaging almost 20 points per game and is grabbing a team-leading seven rebounds per game.

Sophomores Sadik Sufi and Beau Keeve were named first-team All-Conference behind their 10 and 11 points per game, respectively. Sufi, who played at Windsor, is also grabbing six rebounds a game while Keeve, who played at Terra Linda High in San Rafael, is leading the team in steals.

Casa Grande grad Cetrick Yeanay and Jordan Graves — a sophomore who hails from Castroville — both earned honorable mentions, and McMillan was named coach of the year.

“You never know” which Bear Cub will step up on any given night, McMillan said. “Ryan Perez has had some big games. Trey Pugh. Malcolm Jenkins is playing well for us.”

Perez, who played at Petaluma, is averaging seven points per game. Pugh, from Benicia, has four points a game and Jenkins, a freshman out of Analy, is averaging nearly five points.

While the Bear Cubs ran the table in conference and have climbed their way into the upper echelon of the rankings, Las Positas has been a bit of a mystery. The Hawks last registered in the CCCAA state rankings on Jan. 12 when they came in at 16. After that, they fell off.

They finished 6-6 in a tough conference, yet seem to have a dangerous roster. It would be unwise not to think so.

“They have two talented 6-10 guys and they were one of the top teams early in the season,” he said.

Matchups could be an issue. The Bear Cubs are not giants. The tallest guy on the roster is 6-foot-6 freshman Markus Gilbert, and he’s sidelined with a broken foot.

Chavez is listed at 6-feet-5, as is freshman Jayson McMillan, the coach’s son who starred at Cloverdale High. And from there, the Bear Cubs get smaller.

“Their big strength is having two talented big guys,” McMillan said of the Hawks.

Las Positas sophomore Anand Hundal and freshman Peter Hewitt both earned first-team all-Coast-North honors. Both players are 6-feet-10 and dangerously close to averaging a double-double per game. Hundal shoots 55 percent from the field and averages more than 14 points per game. Hewitt is chipping in nearly 11 on 58 percent shooting. Hawks guard Nick Evans is averaging 13 points per game.

Guards Jason Augliera and John Ketchel are averaging six and seven points a game, respectively.

The weapons are there.

“We are going to help out inside, box out, keep them off the boards,” McMillan said of the Hawks’ big guys. “We try to run it when we have it, but we are not an all-out pressing team.”

And the Hawks’ guard combinations handle pressure well, McMillan said.

So the Bear Cubs will try to spread the floor and look for open threes, McMillan said.

“It should be a good game,” he said. “We’ll have to play well.”

The winner will face either No. 5 Foothill or No. 12 Butte on March 3.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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