Bakersfield College head coach Rich Hughes isn’t sure how many more chances the Renegades are going to get.
The goal since the beginning of the year has been to win a third straight conference championship, but BC (13-11, 4-2 Western State-South) has lost two of its six conference games so far.
That’s one more than it lost last season and the same as it lost in 2015-16 when there were more teams and a 14-game conference schedule instead of eight.
Yet LA Pierce’s (9-15, 4-2) loss Wednesday night gave the Renegades new life. BC has two games remaining — at West LA (15-10, 3-2) on Saturday and at Canyons (12-12, 3-2) on Wednesday. Two wins would guarantee the Renegades at least a share of their third conference title in a row. One conference champion from the Western State-South gets an automatic bid to the state playoffs. One loss would most likely derail BC’s plans.
“Quit hoping for other people to fail,” Hughes said. “We just gotta take the bull by the horns and win out.”
West LA handed BC a loss at home on Jan. 24. In the Renegades’ second conference game without leading scorer Jamar Hammonds, they blew a lead with about five minutes left and lost, 83-77.
Trevor Blackmon, one of West LA’s star guards, scored just eight points. Traonte Jones, one of the others, had 28, though.
“We gotta make sure that we take away him and limit his ability to put up 20, kind of keep him to 12-15 points,” Hughes said. “... If we would have corralled him a little bit we would have won that game.”
Hammonds is suspended for the remainder of the season, which has added an extra challenge for Hughes and his players. Hammonds was the conference player of the year last season.
BC guard Tucker Eenigenburg, who had 51 points one game, and forward Jaylunn English have stepped up in his absence. English had 29 in a win over Santa Monica on Wednesday. Marcus Jones — a rebounder and hustle player — has moved into the starting lineup and Shahadah Camp has gotten a chance to take more shots.
“It’s kind of gotten Jaylunn and Tucker more shots than they got with Jamar in there and I think we’ve played more as a team,” Hughes said. “It kind of brought us together (through) some of the turmoil. Not to say that — we definitely miss Jamar and what he brought to the table — I just think the team really took that situation and made it into a positive and it has made us a little bit closer.”
Hughes had tried to get English and forward Henry Galinato to run more in transition. Hammonds would “run like a deer” and usually either get a dunk, layup or foul, Hughes said.
And though he’s had to make adjustments, he’s still confident in the talent on the team.
“We have the ability,” Hughes said. “This year’s been somewhat dramatic. We’ve had a lot of ups and a lot of downs. ... Last night was a good game for us. We really played well as a team. Hopefully, we carry that on with the last two games.”