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Cougars remain strong after tough season

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By Taylor Saugstad
Graphic & Layout Designer

With only six players remaining, the women’s basketball team had a challenging season before they even hit the court.

The season started off on a sour note when Coach Ron Barba noticed that there would only be one returning player, Kendra Losa, on the roster.

This season’s team was filled with mostly walk-ons and a few scholarships recipients.

Regardless of the challenges, the team kept things in perspective with a positive outlook to work together towards a common goal.

“You don’t dwell on it,” Coach Ron Barba said. “You just look at it as these are the cards you have been dealt and you play your best hand.”

Within the first month, the Cougars won four of their seven games but ultimately lost five consecutive games in a row. A few injuries to their starting five, followed by academic problems with most of their walk-ons hurt their success.

In December, the Cougars were hit with bad luck as their team began to shrink, from 10 players, to seven then hitting rock bottom at six. The team finished out their season with just six players remaining, one being Cuesta’s January female athlete of the month, Autumn Russell, a first year student.

Russell, a guard and former Templeton High standout was the one bright spot in the Cougars difficult season.

“The second half of the season we caused a few upsets messing with other teams chances of making playoffs,” Russell said. “This season has been an interesting one to say the least but I think we ended on a good note with our last win to end the season and that’s all you can ask for.”

Russell averaged a double-double for the season and leads the team in both scoring (10.8) and rebounding (10.9).

During Cuesta’s 75-72 win over Santa Barbara on Feb. 6th, Russell scored a career-high 26 points.

“We gave every team we played problems and we only had six kids,” Barba said.

In the meantime, the men’s basketball team had an exceptional season.

The men finished 3rd in this season’s conference with a record of eight wins and four losses making it their first time not being crowned Western State Conference North champions the third year straight. They finished the year out with a total record of 22 wins and 8 losses producing their best record in four years.

However, the men lost four of their last six games but want to finish the season on a high note.

“We all know the season is full of peaks and valleys,” Coach Rusty Blair said. “Unfortunately, we’ve hit a valley and this time of the season we don’t want to be in that valley so we have to get out as soon as possible.”

The men hoped they have given enough effort to receive a higher seating than last year’s 12th place.

Roberto Mantovani, a second year transfer student from the island nation of Cyprus, was named Cuesta’s male athlete of the month for January.

For the season, he’s averaged 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds, which is the fifth-highest in the state. He led the Cougars (22-8, 8-3 WSC) to an undefeated record through their first round of the conference,averaging 18.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and two blocks in nine conference games.

“Overall, we have had a good season,” Mantovani said. “All the players developed friendships with one another and we enjoyed playing with each other.”

To watch Cuesta Basketball, go to the CuestaHDTV Channel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/CuestaHDTV