With a batch of freshmen and some unfortunate injuries, Coach Trevor Shickman wasn’t sure what to expect when the Santa Monica College men began their basketball season.
After the first group of games, Shickman made an evaluation.
“We’ve done surprisingly well,” he said.
SMC went 4-2 in its first six games and had a 13-pount halftime lead Friday night before losing to L.A. Southwest, 79-68 in Corsair Pavilion.
The non-league game offered glimpses of the team’s potential and shortcomings.
The Corsairs functioned smoothly at the outset, taking a 14-5 lead and increasing it to 37-24 at intermission.
But when 6-foot-9 center Shakir Johnson picked up his third and fourth fouls in rapid succession early in the second half the momentum shifted.
Johnson went to the bench with 18:24 left and the Corsairs’ lead quickly shrank to 44-42. He returned with nine minutes left but the visitors tied the game at 56, then went in front to stay.
Johnson fouled out with seven minutes left, the Corsairs fell behind, 69-60 and they couldn’t hit enough three-point shots to catch up.
Johnson is a freshman from L.A. Dorsey High. He’s left-handed and slender but has skills. On any level of basketball the presence of a big man who can influence a game makes a considerable difference.
Some other key players on the Corsair team are 6-5 freshman forward Kyle Guillory from St. Monica High, point guards Aaron Harris from Mira Costa High and Mark Brathwaite from Boston 6-3 sophomore forward Rondell Eskridge from Palisades High and 6-4 soph guard Anthony Lomelo from Houston.
Jon Kahraman, a returnee from last season’s team, didn’t play because of an injury.
Harris was the Corsairs’ leading scorer with 16 points. Eskridge had 15 and Johnson 11.
L.A. Southwest is coached by Reggie Morris, a longtime successful coach at various levels of basketball. Playing for the Cougars is 6-3 Brandon Turner, who played at Brentwood.
In previous SMC games, Guillory scored 20 points against Chaffey. Brathwaite had 14 and Marcus Wilson 13.
Against Mt. SAC Guillory and Eskridge each scored 17, Harris had 15 and Brathwaite contributed seven assists.
When SMC played Oxnard Johnson scored 17, making eight of 10 shots and Guillory scored 14.
SMC will compete in three tournaments – Rio Hondo, Saddleback and Desert. The team won’t return home until January. 4 against West Los Angeles.
The SMC womens’ basketball team will also play in three tournaments – Moorpark, College of San Mateo and Fullerton – and will join the men in a home doubleheader January 4, playing West L.A. at 5:30 p.m.