The Hancock College Bulldogs swept two games from, well, themselves Wednesday night at Hancock’s Joe White Memorial Gymnasium.
The Blue team defeated the White team in both men's and women's games of the annual ‘Meet the Bulldogs’ night, marking the official opening of Hancock’s college basketball team.
In back-to-back 10-minute scrimmages, the men’s Blue defeated the White 18-15.
After a combined men’s/women’s 3-point shooting contest, the women’s Blue edged the White 6-5.
Shane Carney defeated Glenn Jordan 11-6 to win the 3-point shooting contest.
Carney topped Karly Beyers 10-4 in the opening round of the contest and then Jordan matched that with a 10-4 win over Taylor Lee-Hammer to set up the championship showdown.
Men’s basketball coach Tyson Aye is entering his fifth season at the helm of Bulldogs’ basketball.
“We’ve got a really good group of men this season. They’re working really hard,” said Aye. “We’ve got a lot of new faces but they are all taking care of business on an off the floor.”
Santa Maria High School graduate Shemarr Parker is one of the key players returning to the team.
The sophomore forward averaged six points and three rebounds in his freshman season.
“Shemarr is also playing football for us right now so he can only practice with us when his football schedule allows,” said Aye.
The team also gets Carney, a sophomore guard, back from a medical redshirt season a year ago.
“He was injured in a car accident last year and missed the entire season,” said Aye. “His health is great right now and he’s ready to go.”
The squad has just two more sophomores – guards Devin Davis, a transfer from Colorado Northwestern College who averaged 13 points last season, and Kevin Baines, a transfer from Richland Community College in Texas – and 10 freshmen.
“We have a bunch of talented freshman,” said Aye. I think it will make us very deep this year.”
Aye said freshmen Trenton Mitchell, DJ Searcy, John Riddick, Mayowa Akinsanya and Spirit Ricks are all expected to be key contributors this season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who are between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9, a bunch of guys that can get their elbows above the rim. We’re very deep, very fast, very athletic,” said Aye. “I’m looking for us to compete for the conference championship, make the state playoffs and compete against some of the best teams in the state.”
The Bulldog men won 14 games last season, finishing fourth in the Western States Conference North Division. They’ll be chasing their first playoff spot in the last four years.
“This is an exciting time of the year,” said Hancock Athletic Director Kim Ensing. “The fall season is at its peak. The men’s soccer team could be headed to the playoffs, the football team is playing great and our women’s water polo team, in only its third season, is playing great against some of the toughest competition in the state. Now the basketball teams – men’s and women’s – are adding to the excitement.”
Hancock opens its season at Cuesta College’s three-day Rabobank Tournament that runs Nov. 3-5. The Bulldogs will face West Hills Coalinga in their opening game of the tournament.
Fifth-year head coach Cary Nerelli’s squad had a decidedly local flavor.
Nine of his 11 players call the Central Coast home with half of his team getting considerable experience on last year’s 17-win squad.
“If I could have one dream, it would be a team filled with the best local kids – that would be my goal, that’s what we’re striving for,” said Nerelli. “There are some real high quality girls playing high school ball and we’re hoping to draw even more of them to Hancock.”
The 2016-17 team had the school’s most successful women’s basketball season of the past 20 years, making the state playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades.
Guards Lee-Hammer, Beyers (Pioneer Valley) and center Grace Rosa (Paso Robles) were three of the Lady Bulldogs’ top four scorers last year.
“I’m super excited for this year,” said Beyers. “We got a lot of experience as freshmen last year and we know each other so well both on and off the court. We’re really a family.”
Beyers averaged almost 10 points a game, hitting 35 percent of her shots from 3-point range.
Point guard Lee-Hammer, a sophomore from Pasoga Springs, Colorado, is back to lead the offense. She averaged better than 12 points a game last year and shot 44 percent from 3-point range, tops in the conference and third highest percentage in the state.
Rosa averaged better than 12 points with 7.4 rebounds a game.
“The level of competition is way more difficult at the college level,” said Rosa. “Working together as a team is very important.”
“The three of us starting last year is a big benefit to the team. We’ve developed good chemistry,” said Lee-Hammer. “We’re able to read each other so well on the court, anticipate each other’s moves. Our goal this year is to finish even better than last year.”
Sophomore guard Hannah Walls (Valley Christian Academy) sophomore guard/forward Anamarie Fruge (Pioneer Valley) will join the starting lineup.
“These young women both went from ‘no time’ to the starting lineup,” said Nerelli. “They are both physically gifted. They’ve both worked so hard to put themselves into position to start. They’re earned it.”
Rounding out the Lady Bulldogs’ lineup are sophomore Vanessa Ortiz (PVHS), redshirt freshman Calley Pruett (AG) and freshmen Molly DiBernardi (VCA), Sidney Aguilera (Nipomo), Kiesa Romero (Nipomo) and Brianna Rubalcaba, from 2016 CIF champion Madera.
“Going to the playoffs, going on team trips to places like Monterey – those were great,” said Rosa. “We want to make it an even better season this year.”
I’m excited to be a part of it all and how our coaches are building successful people – not just athletes,” said Ensing. “I’m sure they are tired of playing each other in practice and scrimmages. They’re ready for the season to begin – it’s just a couple weeks away.”
The Lady Bulldogs tip off their season on Friday, Nov. 3, at L.A. Southwest.