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Yuba College basketball seeks 7th straight title
Doug Cornelius wasn't counting on this level of stress in February.
He was certain that a rebuilding year was in the works for his Yuba College men's basketball team.
But 11 freshmen are making everyone think twice — that's why the head coach was forced to relax during Sunday's Super Bowl.
"We do it at our house every year," Cornelius said. "But man, I just said, 'You know what, let's just take it easy.' With everything going on, we just went to our neighbor's house. It was nice and mellow."
Right now, the 49ers have everything going on — 10 straight wins.
"For being a team that was picked to finish fifth in our conference, you have to love where we're at right now," Cornelius said. "You would like to hope everything can go our way and we can win our seventh straight (conference title)."
With a 10-0 record in the Bay Valley Conference and sitting at 15-6 overall, Yuba has a 11⁄2 game lead over Marin (15-6) and Merritt (11-9). Contra Costa (16-6) sits fourth at 7-3.
A checkered start to the team's brutal nonconference schedule, where Yuba lost to five teams ranked in the state's top 10, had some wondering, including the players.
"I kept telling these guys that we played those early games to prepare us for conference," he said. "And now it's paying off.
"This team, for how young they are, could have easily folded, but they believe, and they keep finding ways to win. They amaze me sometimes."
Making things more interesting is the BVC's strength. It's the most competitive the conference has been in seven seasons — Marin and Contra Costa are ranked No. 10 and 11, respectively, in Northern California.
Meanwhile, Yuba has gone from being unranked a month ago to No. 11 in the state and No. 6 in NorCal.
"It's the best our conference has been since I've been here," Cornelius said.
Despite the competitiveness, Yuba continues to handle its BVC foes, winning games by as many as 50 points during their 10-game run. The closest margin of victory was by three points on Jan. 23 at Merritt.
"We were down by 16 points in that game and the guys managed to battle back," Cornelius said.
While Yuba is primarily freshmen with just two sophomores, the secret to success this year has been the skill level of the youngsters.
"Our depth is probably one of our best attributes," he said. "We can start any guy in that second five and the results would probably be the same."
With that comes competition for playing time.
"There is competition there," he said. "These guys know that if they don't play well, someone else is going in. It's nice having that luxury."
Chris Smith leads the team in scoring with 15 points per game, followed by Achoki Moikobu and Akachi Okugo, who each have 12 ppg. Jaysen Williams is holding down the fort in the paint, averaging eight points and eight rebounds a game, and leading the team with 32 blocks this season.
The 49ers host Alameda tonight at 7:30 before playing Contra Costa on the road on Friday.
The remaining home games to follow are on Feb. 13 against Mendocino and Feb. 22 in the team's regular-season finale against Merritt.