The Palo Verde College (PVC) Pirates basketball team returned to the home court this past Wednesday, delivering an 89-81 win over visiting the Community Christian College (CCC) Saints of Redlands, Calif.

With limited invite-attendance and COVID compliance guidelines in place, the Pirates brought live collegiate basketball back to the forefront of a hometown crowd at the Clancy Osborne Physical Education Complex’s gymnasium.

Prior to the start of the game, the team interlocked arms and stood during the National Anthem.

“We all came to an agreement before the game, really at practices, to stand and honor U.S. soldiers that are fighting for the U.S. We always want to pay our respects for those fighting for the U.S. and fighting for the country. During the games, we made the decision to just lock arms and make that a definition of us – giving back, and paying our respects,” stated returning PVC Pirates’ leader and standout guard Larry Hemingway Jr. (3). “I feel that, as a student athlete – personally – that’s a big responsibility on our end to act in a certain way and pay our dues and respect. I feel like that’s a big responsibility for us; for me, personally.”

To date, the PVC Pirates’ overall record for the 2020-2021 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) season stands at 2-8; as previously reported, there will be no post-season this year but the Pirates’ program leadership still intends to make the most out of play for its student-athletes.

“Coming into the (March 31) game – we’ve played them before and we knew that they don’t really have good ball handlers, so we were trying to put pressure on them as best we could. And, as you could see, they struggled when we pressed the ball a little bit. But then, we were over-pursuing at times. Then they were getting shots in the corner, wide open,” said PVC Pirates basketball head coach Ryan Copple. “About half-way into the first half, we switched to a man-to-man (defense.) We just tried to go man-up on them, and it kinda helped out a little better.”

On the night, the Pirates had nine steals – led by 2021-roster addition Heath Peper (11) with three.

The first half would see the teams tied at 48.

“Defense showed up second half; first half, I wasn’t happy with the 48 points allowed. But the second half, we toned (CCC) down. We only allowed 33 in the second,” noted Copple.

Another 2021 newcomer to the PVC Pirates squad, Terry Daniels (24), delivered a solid double-double showing in front of the hometown crowd by scoring 13 points to go with 11 rebounds in 33 minutes played.

Teammate and returning PVC Pirates’ standout Dennis Cross (14) also put up a double-double, with 11 rebounds and 12 points.

Both Daniels and Cross had one block and one steal each, as well.

“Defense wins games. That’s the most important thing – we take pride in our defense,” noted Hemingway Jr. “We try to stay sound on defense and not gamble.”

Scoring was led by returning standout guard Hemingway Jr. (3) with 21 points (plus 6 rebounds), followed by Darvion Manning (0) with 17 (plus 7 rebounds) and Daijohn Stewart (2) with 14 (plus 6 assists).

“It felt good being back in the gym in front of our city,” said Stewart, who helped bring Manning on-board the PVC Pirates’ 2021 team. “It was good to be out there in front of them, putting on a show (...) Palo Verde is coming; we’re going to be stronger and we’re going to be a great program to watch.”

All told, the Pirates went 23-34 from the line (67.6%), 32-70 from the field (45.7%), and 2-19 from beyond the arc (10.5%).

The local team has three more home games coming up, and two away – though no decision has been made on attendance for the on-campus dates as of yet.

“We’re trying to float along during this pandemic and just make everyone feel like normalcy’s coming back. That’s the whole point of us continuing to play this season – giving these student-athletes an opportunity to still be involved in school and play. To play the game they love,” said Copple.

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