The playoffs may officially start later this month, but for Santa Monica College (SMC) the postseason may as well already be underway, as the Corsairs’ final three games against teams ahead of it in the conference standings.
First order of business, defeat the team directly ahead of them in third place. That is just what SMC did.
The Corsairs defeated College of the Canyons (COC), 79-74, at home on Saturday. The win allowed the Corsairs to pass Canyons in the standings into third place in the Western State Conference (South Division); the top three teams in each division advance into the playoffs.
SMC seemed to be in control early on, as solid defensive play helped the Corsairs (14-11, 5-5 in conference) build up a 36-24 at halftime.
While the Cougars (14-12, 5-6) chipped into the Corsairs’ lead and made a game of it late, SMC held on to split the season series with Canyons, who defeated Santa Monica on Jan. 18 in Santa Clarita.
SMC head coach Jerome Jenkins said his team has been in some close games this season, and while the Corsairs will not be able to challenge for the division title, he is urging his players to finish out the 2011-2012 campaign with victories against Los Angeles Valley and Citrus.
“I really feel like we’ve been growing as a program. The win put us in third place … but we want to play for second place,” Jenkins told the Mirror. “For us, the playoffs have already started.”
Both Valley (15-9, 7-3) and Citrus (23-1, 10-0) are ahead of SMC in the standings; SMC needs to defeat Valley on Feb. 15 and then hope the Monarchs lose its season finale against Glendale College for the Corsairs to finish second in the conference.
At the very least, SMC could secure third-place – and a playoff spot – with one victory and a Canyons loss; Canyons finishes its season hosting Glendale (11-15, 3-7).
The top three teams in the conference are expected to make the state playoffs, which begin later this month.
Fittingly, SMC’s 1972 state championship team was honored in a special ceremony at Saturday night’s contest, with some of the team’s coaches and players in attendance. The 1972 Corsairs, coached by Bobby Dye, finished the season that year 26-6 and defeated Laney College to claim SMC’s only state championship in school history.
The Corsairs hope to recapture some of that magic 40 years after the fact and make a title run in 2012, but Santa Monica must take care of business against Valley and Citrus first.