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COC's Keke Mathews completes historic season

Posted: February 23, 2014 10:14 p.m.
Updated: February 23, 2014 10:14 p.m.

College of Canyons sophomore Keke Mathews (32) finished the regular season second in the state by scoring an average of 25 points per game.

 

College of the Canyons sophomore Keke Mathews gave herself somewhat of a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2014.

A lot of it was typical-sounding stuff, like going on a diet and improving her fitness.

But it was all centered around one major theme — becoming a better basketball player. Call it a New Year’s realization.

And it’s not as if Mathews was struggling before that.

She was COC’s leading scorer last year as a freshman and she’s continued to lead the team throughout this season.

Since the start of January though, the 5-foot-8 forward has been on fire, scoring an average of 31 points across 12 Western State Conference, North Division games.

“I think it was a whole turnaround just from focus to working hard in practice and letting myself flow into the game,” Mathews says. “It was just a whole different mentality this year.”

For the regular season, which ended on Saturday with a 75-72 loss to Allan Hancock College, Mathews scored 25 points per game, which ranks second in the state.

She’s also recording 10.2 rebounds per contest and she scored a school-record 47 points in a 100-91 win over Moorpark on Feb. 12.

That mark broke her own single-game school record of 45 points scored earlier this season on Jan. 8.

“Arguably, she had the best single season in my tenure this year,” says 22nd-year COC head coach Greg Herrick.

And that’s coming from a coach who has seen a long list of All-State and players through the years. He even said Mathews may have topped the performance of former Cougar Ashley Wakefield, who was the community college state co-player of the year in 2010.

At the very least, the 19-year-old Mathews has a chance to win conference player of the year, and perhaps more.

Her career at COC may extend beyond Saturday if the Cougars (13-14) make it to the postseason. The team will find out Monday.

“She’s had a wonderful year,” Herrick says. “It’s too bad we couldn’t get her more wins.”

Part of the reason for Mathews’ ascent these past few months was due to the fact that her coaches encouraged it.

But a lot of it was her own urgency.

Mathews knew she was going to have to elevate her game if she was going to continue her career and transfer to a four-year college.

Coming out of Antelope Valley High School following a decorated four-year prep career, Mathews said she badly wanted to play for a big college team.

But she was mentally and physically unprepared for the four-year game at that time.

So she ended up at COC, where she’s been able to develop her game for two years.

Now, some four-year school are beginning to take interest.

“I’m just going to wait and let it come to me and see which schools are going to offer me and see which one I can go to,” Mathews says.

What makes Mathews such a tough matchup for opponents is her dual ability to play a quick guard and powerful forward position at the same time.

Herrick said she’s too strong to by guarded by other guards and she’s too fast to be defended by other forwards or bigger players.

“Three different coaches in this conference have told me this: ‘She’s a beast,’” Herrick says. “In our profession that’s a pretty good compliment.”

She’s come a long way since growing up in Los Angeles before moving in with her adoptive parents in Quartz Hill.

Mathews played one year of varsity ball at Quartz Hill High and the next three at Antelope Valley, winning two Golden League MVP awards along the way.

But more than any award or honor, the most important thing for Mathews is continuing to pursue her bachelor’s degree and being able to play basketball along the way.

“I’m very happy and proud of myself because I know it’s all working out,” Mathews says.

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