The Irvine Valley College men’s basketball team cruised with the perfect game plan Saturday (Feb. 27).
Starter Max Carrier led the Lasers through most of the first half and into the second. After Travis Ballard fouled out, Joe Eberhard came in and closed out fourth-seeded IVC’s 72-63 victory over No. 13 Antelope Valley in the CCCAA Southern California Regional semifinals.
“Max had such a great all-around game,” IVC coach Jerry Hernandez said. “Joe carried us down the stretch, and he sealed it.”
IVC improved to 25-4 overall. The Lasers host one of four Regional finals next Saturday (March 6) at 7 p.m. against fifth-seeded Mt. San Antonio College. The winner earns a berth into the State Championships March 12-14 at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.
IVC began the game on a 9-2 run. The Lasers lead grew to as large as 10 points in what was a physical first half. Both teams would enter the double-bonus free throw territory in each half.
“We were pumped and amped,” Carrier said. “We were banging around down low. It was fun. It’s what we do in practice.”
Carrier finished with 20 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
IVC led 33-26 at halftime, and that lead extended to a 15-point lead in the second half.
“Our guys did a fantastic job,” Hernandez said. “We controlled most of the game, but we blew some assignments later in the game.”
Those blown assignments in this physical game led to a litany of free throws for Antelope Valley that would bring the game as close as three points.
The Marauders went 18-of-24 from the free-throw line in the second half. Nick Bennett was the free-throw line star for Antelope Valley going 11-of-14 in the game.
With a 64-60 lead in the final two minutes of the game, Eberhard came in for a fouled-out Ballard.
“I went in and wanted to be more aggressive,” Eberhard said. “I wanted the ball in my hand.”
Eberhard got the ball from his teammates, and got the ball for himself. After Eberhard’s re-entrance, he had a sequence of a basket, steal, rebound, basket, tip ball, two free throws, and a rebound. Eberhard added another rebound as the clock ticked down for his total of four.
Eberhard finished with 19 points, four assists and a steal.
With the victory in hand, the Lasers look toward a date with South Coast Conference champion Mt. SAC.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for us,” Hernandez said. “They’re going to play baseline-to-baseline and press all game. It is going to be a mental and physical challenge. They’re very explosive.”
Some of the blown assignments on the rush against Antelope Valley can be exploited by Mt. SAC’s explosiveness and can not be repeated if the Lasers hope to move on.
“We need to improve our transition defense,” Carrier said. “They’re really good. They have four good, quick guards, and it’s going to be tough.