Ohlone College men's basketball coach John Peterson says sophomore guard Casey Norris does what it takes to win.
Whether it's diving on a loose ball, making the right pass or communicating with teammates, Norris, a former Newark Memorial High star, helps the Renegades find a way.
Norris and the sixth-seeded Renegades (22-6) open the Northern California Regional playoffs Friday against visiting No. 11 College of the Sequoias (15-13). Tipoff for the second-round game is 7 p.m.
"He has been phenomenal all year," Peterson said of Norris. "We just don't win 22 games without him. He just wins."
Chabot (22-7), the fourth seed, will open against No. 13 College of the Siskiyous (17-11) on Saturday. Merritt (17-10), the 14th seed, will travel to No. 3 Santa Rosa (19-8) on Saturday.
After a rough patch in the middle of the season, the Renegades have won five of their last six games, the only loss coming against powerful City College of San Francisco, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, 71-63 on Feb. 21.
In addition to Norris, Ohlone upstart Isaiah Omamogho, of Adelaide, Australia, has been turning heads of late. He averaged 14 points in conference play, shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, after not even starting the first half of the season.
Peterson said Norris has received interest from numerous Division II schools, along with some Division I programs. He averaged 11.9 points a game overall.
Ohlone walloped Sequoias 74-48 on Dec. 6, paced by 20 points from Johan Stenberg and 15 from Marcelus Clay. But Peterson experts a tougher challenge this time.
"Since then they've won nine in a row and totally flipped the thing around," Peterson said of Sequoias. "In the middle of December, if you would have said they were going to the playoffs, I'd have said, 'No way.' Here they are."
Balanced Chabot seems poised for a postseason run. The Gladiators, who split games with Ohlone and finished tied with the Renegades for second place, boast four players who average around 11 points a game: Leo Smith (11.9 ppg), Greg Brown (11.2), Cortez Barrett (10.9) and Paris Davis (10.8)
"Chabot's really good," Peterson said. "Chabot can beat anybody. Really good point guard. Really good length. They rebound it well. When they're shooting it, they're really hard to beat."
Diablo Valley, the 17th seed, had a play-in game against No. 16 San Joaquin Delta (14-12) on Wednesday night.
COMETS' BUBBLE BURSTS: Contra Costa men's coach Miguel Johnson said he doesn't understand how his team was left out of the NorCal playoffs. The Comets (16-12), who won six of their final seven Bay Valley Conference games, had a better overall record than No. 18 seed De Anza-Cupertino (13-12) and a head-to-head win over the Dons.
Johnson believes the Comets beat the Dons out in the nine criteria used to select playoff teams, but the committee ruled otherwise. The Comets, who had four freshman starters, were led by sophomore Davion Mize's 21.8 points a game, to go with his 6.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Freshman guard Armein Outing averaged 14.3 ppg. Mize and Outing and were first-team all-BVC picks. Daris Workman and Marcel Jones made second team all-BVC.
WOMEN'S TOURNEY: The Contra Costa women's basketball team (20-8) earned the 12th seed for the NorCal tourney and will travel to No. 5 City College of San Francisco (24-3) on Saturday in the second round. Comets guard Jewel Rogers ranks third in the state in scoring, averaging 24.7 points, along with 10.5 rebounds. Other local teams that qualified were No. 11 Diablo Valley, No. 13 Ohlone, No. 15 Laney, No. 17 Chabot. DVC guard Dericka Ware ranks ninth in the state at 21.5 ppg. Ohlone's DeAjanae Conic is No. 5 in the state in shooting percentage at 57.7.
HALL OF FAME SPLASH: Former Amador Valley swimmer Danny Lanini is being inducted in the Northern Colorado Hall of Fame at a ceremony on Friday in Greeley, Colo. Lanini and the Division II Bears' 1972-73 men's swimming team will be inducted as a unit. Lanini was All-American in the 400 individual medley, 200 butterfly and the 400 free style relay. Lanini and his other brothers, Jeff and Donny, swam for the late coach Chuck Volante at Amador Valley, whom the school's pool is dedicated to.
PIONEERS POISED FOR PLAYOFFS: The Cal State East Bay women's basketball team can nail down the sixth and final spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association with wins in its final two regular-season games. The Pioneers 14-13, 11-9) will travel to San Francisco State on Friday and at Sonoma State on Saturday. Three teams are bunched a game behind the Pioneers. The Pioneers notched a 63-60 win over visiting Chico State on Feb. 22. Pioneers forward Brianna Torrance was honored during a timeout after scoring her 1,000th career point. Torrance, in her final home game, had a game-high 22 points.