The seven-player Lady Rams basketball team are a young,
inexperienced bunch with a unique character flaw
– they play better from behind rather than holding onto a
The seven-player Lady Rams basketball team are a young, inexperienced bunch with a unique character flaw – they play better from behind rather than holding onto a lead.

“They get themselves in tight situations,” said second-year head coach Michelle Mannisto, whose squad has lost its last three games by a combined seven points before defeating Monterey Peninsula 58-43 on Wednesday. “They don’t know how to maintain and close out a game ahead. They like to come from behind and win.”

Even the teams like Monterey Peninsula, which hasn’t won a game, still gave the Rams trouble.

“That team we played hasn’t won a game all year,” Mannisto said.” We could have played a lot better. We didn’t attack them early. We didn’t play that well in first half, but we ended up taking care of it in the second half.”

In last Friday’s 53-51 home loss to San Mateo, the Lady Rams maintained a six-point edge with three minutes remaining. But all of a sudden it happened – they froze up on the court and allowed San Mateo to steal the game.

“(San Mateo) went into a zone and we into a freeze mode,” Mannisto said. “They’re afraid to lose instead of playing to win.”

With 32 seconds left, the Lady Rams failed to box out on a off-target shot and allowed San Mateo to take the lead with a putback basket. The San Mateo bench jumped onto the court in celebration – but there was still two seconds remaining. According to Mannisto, a technical foul should have been called on San Mateo. Unfortunately, the officials did not see it that way. With two ticks left, the Lady Rams could not get a shot off – dropping the game by two.

“They’re just not quite there yet,” said Mannisto, whose shooters went 9-for-19 from the charity stripe. “We don’t know how to close out yet. We don’t have the confidence and leadership and know-how to win. It’s kind of a thing they have to learn also.”

Mannisto, however, said the Lady Rams played their best game of the season against San Mateo despite the end result.

“They’re playing very well. They’re playing above their potential,” said Mannisto, who believes her squad (6-11 overall, 2-2 interdivisional) can still get the 10 wins necessary for a postseason berth. “Our goal is to try to get our 10 wins and get into playoffs.”

The Lady Rams return home tonight against San Jose City College at 5 p.m. Gavilan hits the road again Jan. 22 against Mission and comes back Jan. 24 to host Chabot. The Rams play the No. 1 team in the state in Ventura on Jan. 25.

“It will be a humbling experience, but it will show us what we got,” Mannisto said. “But it will help us with points.”

Learning from past experiences has become a theme. In a 70-69 loss to Hartnell on Jan. 4, the Lady Rams once again were snubbed at the end. Down by three, the Lady Rams put in a two-point shot right at the buzzer instead of taking a three-pointer – losing by one.

“Andrea (Lupina) had the ball for a three, but had one or two people too tight on her. She threw ball into Keisha (Webster). The buzzer went off right as she released it,” Mannisto said. “Two instead of three, that kills you… It was a great game.”

The two last-second losses have hindered their playoff hopes, but not erased them. The Lady Rams – made up of six freshman and one sophomore – are still in the hunt with two interdivisional games and 11 conference games left on their schedule.

“They’re pretty frustrated losing both of those games so maybe they’ll step up,” said Mannisto, whose Lady Rams also dropped a tight 68-64 decision to Cabrillo on Jan. 8. “We have seven kids doing it all, doing stuff they’re not accustom to doing. I expect a lot, but I can’t always expect everything out of seven.

“They’re getting better every game,” she added. “ They’re at a position right now that I never thought they’d be at.”

Mannisto is still encouraged by her group of seven hoopsters. They have played well above their potential. Mannisto said there were only three games that they could have won that they did not. All the other losses were against far superior squads such as Butte College, ranked fourth in the state, Lassen College, ranked 16th in the state, and College of the Siskiyous, ranked 21st in the state.

“We played a tough schedule this year. That’s a huge reason why our record is the way it is.”,” said Mannisto, who hopes the quality of opponents will catapult her team into the playoffs. “I also wanted to give the kids experience, to show them what they need to do to get to that level.”

Mannisto is also building towards the future with all but one sophomore – Gilroy High grad Antionette Bowe – expected to return next year along with an influx of more local talent.

“We’ll bring back the freshmen along with the group I’m recruiting now. We’re looking like we can do some things,” Mannisto said. “ We’ll actually have a full squad instead of seven. It would be a first.”

In spite of only having seven players in her first season at the helm, Mannisto guided the Lady Rams to a playoff berth before an eligibility infraction forced them to forfeit all of their wins.

This year, Mannisto hopes to return to the postseason and get a chance to play that lost playoff game of a year ago.

“We’ve got a chance,” Mannisto said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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