Familiar foes battle for state title

John Franz, Sports Editor

FRESNO, Calif.—The two teams contending for the title of California state champions in community college men’s basketball are no strangers on the court.

The State Championship for the title in the California Community College Athletic Association will come down to two Orange Empire Conference foes. The South No. 4 Riverside Community College Tigers (29-7) will face the South No. 1 Saddleback College Gauchos (29-7).

Saddleback College beat the North No. 2 San Joaquin Delta 62-59 in overtime while Riverside beat the No. 3 of the North City College of San Francisco 61-57.

“They showed a resiliency all year long. they are a special group,” Riverside coach John Smith said. “It will be fun (facing Saddleback). We know each other quite well, and the players like each other, but come tomorrow, they will be tearing each others heads off.”

“(Riverside) is playing awfully well right now, and its going to be very difficult for us,” Saddleback coach Andy Ground said. “They’re big and physical. They rebound and shoot well. They have no real weakness.”

The two teams faced each twice this season. On Jan. 28, the Tigers beat the Gauchos, 71-57. Robbie Robinson had 22 points in the game for the Tigers and Saddleback’s Kevin Menner had 20 in the loss.

In the final game of the season on Feb. 20, the Gauchos won the OEC title on a game-winning shot by T.J. Lipold, 67-65. Robinson had 14 points for the Tigers and Franklin Session had 16 for the Gauchos.

There are two key player match ups to watch in tomorrow’s championship game.

First, the Gauchos matching up down low with Tiger’s freshman forward Kevin Bradshaw, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in the semifinal victory.

“Their big guy is playing well right now and he wasn’t playing as well early in the season,” Ground said. “We’re going to man him up and see what happens.”

The second is Saddleback sophomore Franklin Session versus Riverside guard Robinson. In the Tiger’s victory against the Gauchos, Robinson was hot from the field and in the Gaucho’s victory he was cooled down while Session was the high man for Saddleback.

Both Session and Robinson were named to First Team All-State in 2008-09 on Saturday.

Game time for the championship game is set for 1 p.m. at the Selland Arena in Fresno.

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