CCBC Essex men’s basketball coach Mike Francis wasn’t sure what to expect from his team this season.
The Knights returned just one player from last year’s squad that went 18-11 and advanced to the Region XX quarterfinals. This turnover led to a rough start for the season for CCBC, which at one point lost seven of eight games to fall to 6-10.
But, the Knights have won three straight since then, including an 84-75 non-conference win Friday over Globe Institute of Technology. In that win, freshman forward Maurice Byers (Cardinal Gibbons) and freshman guard Allen Mahomes (Reginald F. Lewis) scored 20 points as CCBC Essex improved to 9-10.
CCBC Essex enters Wednesday’s home conference game against Chesapeake College 6-5 in MD JUCO play and in seventh place in the 18-team league.
“It took a long time for this team to come together,” Francis said. “We had a core group of players last year come back. This year, with just one returnee we had a hard time figuring out who we are.”
The Knights play seven players regularly, which includes sophomore guard Sean Edwards, who averages 17.7 points per game. Byers averages 17 points per game and is eighth in the conference in rebounds per game (8.8) while Haasan Nichols is third in steals per game (2.7).
Francis said he another key player is sophomore guard Samuel Bianconi (Long Reach), who averages 6.6 points, and has made 45 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. Bianconi was the lone player back from last year’s squad.
“Sam set expectations in practice,” Francis said. “He helped the other players learn our vocabulary and learn the system. Sam has also gotten big rebounds and loose balls for us and is just one of the best shooters in the conference.”
CCBC Essex closes out the regular season with five conference games. Francis said he believes the Knights are playing their best basketball of the season and is primed to improve their standing in the playoff hunt.
“We are trying to tell guys to take it one game at a time finish out stronger than started,” Francis said. “It’s not good to be playing your best during the first week of the season. We are playing our best from mid-January and that is how you win in the postseason.”