Ed Madec likes to challenge his Fresno City College men's basketball team with an important preseason question.
"He always asks us, do we want to be that team not to win conference?" sophomore forward BJ Shelton said.
Collectively, of course, they all said no and went on to respond in kind, just as Rams players have done for the past decade and a half.
Fresno City clinched a tie for the Central Valley Conference title Saturday and won it outright with a 114-95 victory over Porterville on Wednesday, giving the program a state record 15th consecutive league championship.
Each season, a new crop of Rams has accepted the challenge to maintain the run.
"Just for all the guys that played here before," Rams guard Nick Hilton said of the extra motivation, "we're not going to be the team to let them down and lose conference."
Added Shelton, who finished with 26 points Wednesday: "We do want to win conference, but we want to focus on the playoffs as well."
The Rams face Sequoias on Saturday in a CVC finale, then await NorCal Regional play that begins Wednesday. Seedings are to be announced Monday.
"The bar is set really high here," Madec said. "It is what it is."
10 Central Valley Conference championships won under Madec, following four by Vance Walberg and one by Mark Mendez as the Rams broke a tie for a record they had shared with Los Angeles City College.
Rams forward Mike Crawley, also a member of the 2011-12 team that won the state title, said the foundation is laid during the program's always rough preconference slate of games.
"I don't think our conference is the best conference in the state," said Crawley, who returned as a player this season following a three-year absence because of family reasons. "I feel like we really focus on preseason a lot playing against powerhouses down south and the ones that are farther up north. We play against them and battle those games out, compared to steamrolling everybody in our conference."
The Rams did stumble once in the CVC this season, losing to Sequoias 81-79 while seeing a 14-game winning streak snapped. Fresno City has since reeled off five straight victories, the closest an 86-75 win at West Hills.
"It kind of did humble us in a way," Shelton said of that defeat. "But it made us more mad. This week … we're looking forward to that game."
Crawley said room to grow and improve has helped the team stay focused en route to its latest CVC championship, and he hopes the success continues to build through the postseason. Fresno City roared into the regional last year as the No. 1 seed after a 12-0 conference run, only to be bounced by 17th-seeded Foothill 72-64.
"It's now to a point," Crawley said, "we're growing every practice."