Basketball team wins first playoff game

Austin Messick

In its first playoff game on the road to the state championship, the Saddleback College men’s basketball team dominated Barstow 75-52 at Saddleback Friday night.

The Gauchos’ defense stifled the Vikings’ offense, forcing them to make only 36 percent of their field goals, while the Gauchos collected 29 total rebounds, 19 of which were in the first half. Saddleback’s tenacity and ball awareness led to six steals in the second half, seven total on the night.

“I thought we played well. I thought we defended well,” Coach Andy Ground said. “I thought the kids carried out the game plan just like we worked on all week, and I’m extremely happy and pleased with it.”

Offensively, the Gauchos made 48 percent of their field goals, and 74 percent of their free throws, sinking 15-20 attempts in the second half. Myron Green led Saddleback with 18 points, five rebounds, two steals and was 8-10 from the free-throw line. Wendell Faines, Donovan Poole and Johnel Gray each scored 14 points and played pivotal roles in this big win.

Even though Saddleback played stellar offensive throughout the night, it was defense that helped elevate the Gauchos far above the Vikings. Saddleback held Barstow to 24 points in the second half, and led by as much as 30 points.

“Coach preaches defense, so we always try to come out and work on the defensive end first, and then our offense will come after that,” Green said.

With 11 minutes 31 seconds left in the game, the Gauchos were up 64-34 following a long three-pointer by Terrel Mack, driving layups by Gray, Mack and Vonchae Richardson, and four trips to the free-throw line.

Two of those free-throw line visits occurred after Lamine Diame fouled Johnel Gray, and then received his second technical foul after storming off the court cursing about the play, resulting in his ejection from the game.

As Diame waited in the locker room, Gray made three of four free throws, helping Saddleback extend its lead. With 8 minutes 27 seconds left, Barstow began to cut into Saddleback’s lead by scoring nine unanswered points, five of which were scored by Lavanne Pennington. Pennington was Barstow’s leading scorer with 24 points.

This strong effort came just too late for the Vikings, and was not nearly enough to propel them to an unlikely come-from-behind victory. Barstow scored only two points after this run, and eventually fell to the Gauchos’ aggressive defense and accurate shooting.

Barstow Coach Reginald Howard said because Saddleback was able to close inside lanes, denying the Vikings chances to drive to the basket, their strength was cut off causing them to shoot jump shots which is not their strong suite.

“They’re a great team,” said Howard. “You know I consider [Saddleback] the Lakers of junior college, and they came out, stepped on us early and it was a dog fight from that point on.”

The first half consisted of Saddleback shooting consistently from the field, making 51.5 percent of its shots. The Gauchos used good ball movement to open up inside lanes so they could drive to the basket for layups. With 8 minutes 24 seconds left in the first half, the Gauchos led 28-11 following three quick layups by Faines, Marquis Green and Myron Green.

Later, a soaring dunk by Pennington brought new life to the Vikings. Barstow then scored three three-pointers and a field goal, but still trailed Saddleback 43-28 at half time. Trailing by 15 points at the start of the second half proved to be too much for the Vikings to overcome.

Saddleback came out with high energy in the second half, fighting hard for possession of the ball, driving hard for layups and remaining focused at the free-throw line.

“If we want to win a championship we know we can’t let up at all,” said Myron Green, “so we just kept the pressure on and tried to get a bigger lead.”

After this win, the Gauchos are 25-6 and will advance as the seventh-ranked seed in the Southern California regional tournament. Saddleback plays in the quarter-final round against  second-ranked seed Southwestern College at Soutwestern College in Chula Vista tonight at 7 p.m.

Ground after 1st half: Well we gota keep the defensive pressure up, and we gotta execute on the offensive end by making good passes, make them defend long into the shot clock

Ground after game: I thought we played well. I thought we defended well. I thought the kids carried out the game plan just like we worked on all week, and I’m extremely happy and pleased with it.

Well we still have a lot to work on, I have to go down and scout southwestern and see what their personel holds, we played them a long time ago in November, and I have to see what kind of changes they’ve made, what they’re doing and then I’ll put a game plan together to tackle that problem

Myron Green: Coach preaches defense so we always try to come out and work on the defensive end first and then our offense will come after that.

If we want to win a championship we know we can’t let up at all so we just kept the pressure on and tried to get a bigger lead.

Well we play the number two seed Southwestern, they’re supposed to win so, we played them earlier in the season and they beat us so we know what they do we just gotta work on going against them for the next round.

Reginald Howard (barstow): They’re a great team, you know i consider them the Lakers of Junior college and they came out, stepped on us early and it was a dog fight from that point on.

Also said because saddleback was able to close the inside lanes, denying Barstow chances to drive to the basket for layups, their strength was cut off causing them to shoot jump shots which is not their strong suite.

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