Jessup men take shot at title

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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More than a conference championship will be at stake for the William Jessup University men’s basketball team tonight when the Warriors battle Menlo College at 7:30 p.m. in Rocklin. Jessup and Menlo share the top spot in the California Pacific Conference standings at 8-2. California Maritime Academy was also tied for the lead until losing 74-66 to Jessup last Thursday. Whichever team wins the regular-season title will host the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday. Jessup won the tournament last season, defeating Menlo 83-76 in the title game. The Oaks avenged that loss Jan. 22 with an 81-72 victory at home against the Warriors. Now it is Aaron Muhic’s Jessup team that has a score to settle when the squads meet again tonight. Muhic is not all surprised that the conference race is going down to the wire because “there is so much parity.” It is likely the team that wins the tournament will be the conference’s only representative in the NAIA playoffs. Jessup (11-14) and Menlo (12-12) do not have the records to merit an at-large berth. Jessup shared the regular-season title in 2010 with California Maritime and Holy Names. The Warriors kept pace in the conference race this season by knocking off the Keelhaulers last Thursday. Balanced scoring proved to be the difference for Jessup, which rallied in the second half by scoring 49 points. The Warriors managed just 25 points in the first half and trailed by five at the break. Four guards combined to score 55 points for Jessup. Senior Kadeem Kirsten led with 21, junior Preston Bramow added 13, senior Eleazar Jones had 12 and junior Marquis Robinson contributed nine. Muhic has six players averaging at least eight points per game this season, but no one is averaging more than 11. Senior forward Damal Neil is the Warriors’ leading scorer at 10.92 points per game. “That’s been pretty common for us,” Muhic said. “We haven’t been able to get that big-time scorer, and we have an unselfish group of players.” Junior forward Anthony Anderson, a Granite Bay High School and Sierra College product, is averaging 10.28. He led the Warriors in Saturday’s 58-52 victory over Bethany by scoring 20 points. Also contributing to the balanced attack are Robinson (10.25), Kirsten (9.76), Bramow (8.28) and Jones (8.04). Robinson has also been a steady hand in running the offense as the point guard. Robinson, a Natomas High graduate, arrived at Jessup this season after transferring from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore. Muhic praised Robinson for his effort in the win over California Maritime. “He was the key in establishing our half-court offense,” Muhic said. “He really allowed us to execute.” Muhic was also pleased with Kirsten’s performance. Kirsten struggled early this season as he recovered from intestinal surgery. He scored a team-high 19 points in the loss at Menlo last month. “We’ve been waiting for him to play like that,” Muhic said. “After having the surgery, he didn’t come back as strong as he was last year.”