Clark leads Vikings into DVC Classic

The 25th annual DVC Classic, which tips off Thursday with eight men's basketball teams, will boast a strong field and a terrific leader in Vikings sophomore Spencer Clark. 
Clark's teammate and fellow captain Reggie Arthur-Mixon of Sacramento describes him as a "goer. He goes. He's going to keep playing hard the whole time. Even when he's tired, he's going to make plays." 
The Vikings (3-2), riding a three-game winning streak and a grind-it-out style, will open the three-day Classic against Solano (1-4) at 8 p.m. ThursdayIn other first-rounders, Contra Costa (2-1) will face Santa Monica (5-1) at 2 p.m., San Jose (2-5) will play Sierra (1-3) at 4 p.m., and Las Positas (3-5) will meet Sequoias (6-4) at 6 p.m. 
Without a true go-to scorer, the Vikings play a methodical offense, working the ball inside to 6-foot-7 sophomores Damien Banford of Newark Memorial and Jacques Carraway of McClymonds. They also play a typically tenacious, mop-the-floor defense. 
The versatile 6-foot-4 Clark, a Concord High graduate, epitomizes the tough-guy mindset instilled by legendary DVC coach Steve Coccimiglio. 
"Spencer is our leader," Coccimiglio said. "He started 90 percent of our games last year,and he's a local kid, and he's got a real good spirit to him." 
Clark, who played his first three years of high school at Mt. Diablo, is also a vocal leader. 
"I prefer to go out there and play as hard as I can, and that gives me the confidence to tell guys who maybe aren't maybe having the best night, 'Come on, guys. We've got to play hard,'" Clark said. 
DVC had last week off after winning the Shasta Tournament title with a 57-52 victory over Foothill, limiting the Owls to a paltry 10 points in the first half. Troy Owens Jr. came off the bench to lead DVC with 10 points. 
Clark had 13 points, eight rebounds, a block, a steal and an assist in a 65-58 win over host Shasta on Nov. 21.  
"We haven't put up anything past 70 this season, so we haven't been scoring a lot of points, but we are making up for it on the defensive end," Clark said. "It is kind of a grind-it-out, kind of a gritty team." 
The Vikings held double-digit leads in both halves in back-to-back losses to open the season, against Butte and Contra CostaClark described the losses as an "eye-opener." 
"We're not as talented offensively, so we have to really play hard on the defensive end and get stops, and that will translate into easy offense," he said. 
But the Vikings have some offensive weapons and a lot of promise. 
"Right now we're in a good position. If we can stay crisp on defense and get a little bit better on offense, we have a chance at state," Arthur-Mixon said. 
College Park graduates and freshmen wings Steven Daily and Kevin Crosno are looking good off the bench. They combined for six rebounds and six points against Foothill. 
Last year, the Vikings, who have won their own tournament 10 times, fell to San Jose City 95-92 in two overtimes in the championship game. 
 Clark wants to hold court this time, in front of family and friends. 
"The returning players are definitely looking to take it this year and really compete at a high level everyday," he said. "Last year this tournament was actually turning point for our season. We're trying to hit that curve right now. We're trying to get it rolling." 
Friday's winner's bracket semifinals are at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the championship game at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The loser's bracket semifinals are at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, with the consolation final at noon on Saturday. 
  • Matt Schwab