Optimism in the aftermath of adversity

Kirsten Sharaf / Roundup

Despite putting their best foot forward, members of the Pierce College men’s basketball team ended their tumultuous season with a final tally of only nine wins, three of which were at home.

“As someone who coached for 35 years, I always thought a successful season would be making the playoffs,” said Pierce athletic director Bob Lofrano. “I’m sure for the basketball players, not obtaining that there’s a little disappointment.”

As far as the home record goes, Pierce lost seven out of the 10 at home.

Early in the season they faced challenges that would have been enough to make any team quit, but they did not.

The Brahmas lost two of their key players early on due to personal problems at home and another two due to injuries.

“At the start of the year we were counting on a couple of kids playing for us,” said head coach Ed Babayan. “Two of the kids ran into some personal problems family-wise, we lost another guy to an ACL tear and the combination of all that really hurt us.”

Sophomore and center Arash Riahi, a big asset to the Pierce team, blew out his knee early in the season, forcing the coaching staff to move players around to help compensate.

Assistant coach Sean Edwardsen attributed the rocky season to a lack of leadership on the team.
“The problem we had last year was not really offensively or defensively,” Edwardsen said. “We had no leadership.”

He added that the “little things” cost them the games most nights.

“We turned the ball over, (made) stupid mistakes,” he said.

Guard Juan Gill agreed with the assistant coach.

“We worked really hard last season but we couldn’t finish,” he said. “We had the talent but we weren’t mature enough (to finish).”

“The coaches will all be back, and they just have to go out and recruit because at this level you’re only as good as the players you recruit in,” Lofrano said.

Which is exactly what the coaches have been doing.

“We have more than enough to be a really good team next year,” Babayan said. “We are waiting on a couple more high school kids to finish playing.

Between the high school kids we are bringing in, the couple kids we have transferring in and the kids we have returning, we are going to have a really good team.”

One of those new kids is freshman point guard Ever Lopez.

“He is going to help us out big time,” Edwardsen said.

Lopez hopes to bring “a winning season, a better attitude and leadership” to the Brahmas.

Six of the nine players from last season will be transferring to four-year schools. Three of them will be graduating and the other three are looking to get scholarships by the end of the year.

Peter St. Hubert, who won All League, is graduating at the end of spring and will be at a four-year school next year.

Justus Von wright, Honorable Mention award recipient, is hoping to transfer as well, and Babayan says he has been “getting a lot of good looks from a lot of really good schools.”

Malcolm Collins, Juan Gill and Ritzie Williams will all be returning for their second season as Brahmas.

The members of the basketball team are holding their heads high and going into next season with optimism and an ultimate goal — playoffs.

“We’re looking for 17 or 18 wins and making a run at playoffs next season,” Edwardsen said.

His goal for the upcoming season: “Win every possession and not make the stupid mistakes we made this year.”

The team may have had its share of down moments, but don’t count them out just yet.