Saddleback defeats IVC 81-78 (Courtesy of Tameem Seraj)
Saddleback beat Irvine Valley College in the first leg of the President’s Cup Wednesday night on the road in an 81-78 slugfest.
The Gauchos got out to an early lead and led at halftime 27-21. The first half featured some poor shooting for both teams as the Lasers shot only 23.8 percent from the floor and the Gauchos were 0-5 in 3-pointers. The Lasers didn’t go down easy and chipped away at the lead with second chance points as they ripped down 15 offensive rebounds.
Lasers guard Chris Taylor thought he had the winning shot as he extended the lead to 62-59 with just seconds remaining in regulation. Gauchos forward Josiah Thropay took only one shot during the game but he made it count as he sunk a 3-pointer as the clock ran out to tie the game at 62-62 and send it into overtime.
The first overtime period produced another clutch moment, this time coming from the Lasers’ Jordan Hamamoto. Saddleback held the lead at 69-67 but Hamamoto drove in the lane and finished with a layup with five seconds remaining and sent the game into double overtime with the score at 69-69.
In double overtime the Gauchos held the lead again at 81-78 with two seconds remaining and IVC’s ball with the chance to tie it but the Lasers made a poor pass right to the hands of a Saddleback defender and the Gauchos hung on for the victory.
The Gauchos were led by freshman guard Aaron Brevard with 24 points off the bench. Freshman forward Darnell Taylor also had a strong performance with 18 points and 7 rebounds. The leading scorer of the game was the Lasers’ sophomore guard Kalob Hatcher with 26 but it came in a losing effort.
The game was physical from the beginning and continued throughout the game as the teams combined for a total of 70 free throw attempts. Even the coaches were getting fired up as the Saddleback coaching staff received two technical fouls in the game.
The first was given 14 minutes and six seconds into the first half to head coach Andy Ground and the second was given with two minutes and three seconds left in double overtime. Even though IVC hit both technical free throws, Saddleback still got the win.
“I’m happy about the end result but I’m not happy about the way we got it done,” Ground said about the victory.
Ground noticed his team turn the ball over several times and was not afraid to voice his displeasure to his players. The Gauchos had 23 turnovers in the game compared to only 18 for the Lasers.
“We need to improve on taking care of the ball better and defending by keeping their guys in front of us,” Ground said.
The win improved Saddleback’s record to 11-7 overall and 2-1 in conference, while Irvine Valley fell to 14-4 overall and 1-1 in conference. With the victory the Gauchos hold the advantage over the battle for the President’s Cup. But the President’s Cup isn’t the highest priority for Ground.
“The President’s Cup is nice but every conference game is huge for us right now. With a young team every win gives them experience and confidence which is a positive,” Ground said.
The second leg of the President’s Cup will be on Feb. 3 at Saddleback.