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Uneasy playoff victory for Niners
Hands on hips, eyes rolled back, 49ers coach Doug Cornelius sighed as time expired. Too many turnovers and missed shots ruined the moment as "Celebration" played over the PA system. In the locker room, it was the same theme as players' heads hung.
"It looked like we lost," Cornelius said.
Yuba College is moving on, but the 49ers self-dubbed "First to Five" path started by stumbling over too many self-inflicted speed bumps in a 73-64 victory over Las Positas on Friday.
"I'm not a happy camper," the coach said.
And he wasn't nitpicking. Yuba never trailed, but this was hardly another cruise for a men's basketball team that enjoyed a perfect conference run fueled by double-digit wins.
The seventh seeded 49ers (26-5) had a 13-0 lead to start the game, then saw it cut to a point by the No. 10 Hawks midway through the second half. They turned the ball over 19 times. At halftime, Julian Welch, the team's leading scorer who's flush with big-time college offers, had three points. Same goes for Yuba big man Julian Scott, who matched his scoring total to his number of fouls.
To reach the second round of the California Community College Athletic Association Northern California Regional, the 49ers survived.
"We had to find a way to win, our shots weren't falling like they usually do," guard Spencer Butterfield said. "We had to scrap."
It worked. Mike McChristian had 12 points, eight steals and six rebounds and Welch rebounded from a half full of forced shots to add 13 points. Butterfield, complete with a bum left ankle that he planned to ice after the game, scored a team-high 17 to go with six boards.
In all, not good enough, McChristian said.
"We knew among ourselves that we could have played much, much better," the guard said.
That's the type of sound bite that will please Cornelius, who was rather blunt with his team afterwards, he said. Part one of what set him off was their inability to go for the kill early as Las Positas mired itself in turnovers. The Hawks coughed up the ball 10 times and scored no points in the first 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
But by halftime, the Hawks cut it to five points, 29-24.
"That 13-0 lead should have been a 24 (or) 25 point lead," Cornelius said.
Led by press-breaker Dwight Abad (22 points), the Hawks were on the precipice of a lead change when University of the Pacific-bound center Tim Thomas made it 43-42. But the 49ers responded with a 9-0 run and saved themselves at the free-throw line by going 15 of 16.
Yuba will face the winner of today's game between second-seeded Fresno City College and No. 15 Delta. The consensus prediction among the 49ers is that they're heading to Fresno on Wednesday. Though Yuba prevailed 106-92 over the Rams in their season-opener, all indications point to a bad, bad night if the team can't revert back to Bay Valley Conference form.
"I told the guys straight up: 'If we play like that (against Fresno), we're going to lose by 30."