(Joseph Espiritu/Lariat Staff)
The Irvine Valley College men’s basketball team’s first berth into the CCCAA State Championship tournament was as short-lived as anyone could have imagined.
The City College of San Francisco got out to an early 12-0 lead and ever looked back in it 70-63 quarterfinal victory Friday (March 12).
“It was our worst start all year, and they jumped on us,” sophomore guard Durrell Norman said. “It dug a hole that was just too deep.”
South No. 3 IVC finished 26-4 on the season. The quarterfinal berth is the best finish by a Lasers team in the 18-year history of the program and the 15 years under coach Jerry Hernandez.
North No. 2 CCSF will face the winner of the Foothill-San Bernardino Valley quarterfinal in the semifinals on Saturday (March 13).
CCSF got off to a 12-0 run to begin the game.
“We came out weak,” sophomore forward Max Carrier said, “and they came out strong. It took us out of the game. That was the difference.”
Sophomore guard Travis Ballard scored IVC’s first points on a three-pointer to kill the run.
Utilizing their quickness in transition and down around the basket, the Rams built up a lead and went into the half leading by 15 at 38-23.
“We got lost in transition,” Coach Hernandez said. “We were terrible defensively, and we got very exposed.”
Both teams exchanged points for a majority of the second half with CCSF maintaining a 14 or 15 point lead. The Rams got their largest lead at 20 points with seven minutes remaining the game.
IVC showed some life late and brought the deficit down to six points with under a minute remaining.
“We got down, but we still brought it,” Carrier said.
CCSF would make the game-icing free throws and finish with an emphatic dunk by Da’Ron Sims to close out the victory.
Sims was the leader for CCSF on offense scoring 18 points and added four rebounds and an assist.
Carrier was the leader for IVC scoring 15 points, pulling in 12 rebounds, and adding two blocks, two steals, and an assist in his career finale as a Laser.
“It’s not the way I wanted to go out,” Carrier said, “but my experience [at IVC] is something I’ll never forget. All these guys are family for life.”
Though the season did come to a screeching halt, Carrier’s sentiment was echoed by his fellow sophomores.
“We thought we had a shot and a great team,” Norman said. “There is no better group I would want to do this with. It was a long road, but we always kept it fresh.”
The group did finish as one of the best in IVC’s history, and the accomplishment of the school’s and Hernandez’s first State berth was not muddied.
“It was something that Coach [Hernandez] needed,” Carrier said. “It’s great for him and out coaching staff.”
Hernandez doesn’t only see the berth as a great accomplishment for the now, but something that can be moved forward and improved on.
“We were under the radar and had low expectations this season,” Hernandez said. “The bar is higher now. We have a strong, good group coming back and have high expectations.
“It’s great to be here and mentioned with the elite.”