Saddleback College opens defense of its men’s state basketball title Friday, playing City College of San Francisco at Ventura College. Game time is 5 p.m.
A victory would propel the Gaucho’s into Sunday’s 1 p.m. final against the winner of Friday’s other semifinal between Citrus (26-5) and Fresno City College (31-2). Citrus eliminated Irvine Valley College, 71-64, Saturday.
It is the third consecutive state tournament appearance for Saddleback (27-6), which beat San Francisco (30-1), 63-57, in last year’s championship game. The Gauchos finished second in 2009, losing to Riverside, 69-60, in overtime.
Due to budget concerns, the state tournament for both men and women has been cut in half this year, with only four teams each advancing to Ventura. Previously, eight teams played three consecutive days to determine a state title. The women’s tournament begins Saturday, with the final slated Sunday afternoon at 1.
The Gauchos reached the state tournament by ratcheting up their defensive intensity. In three playoff games, Saddleback allowed opponents, who were averaging 79 points per game, an average of just 58.
San Francisco averages 84 points a game and has won 16 games in a row and seven consecutive Coast Conference titles. Sophomore guard Collin Chiverton leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.4 points. Fellow sophomore guard Jonathon Williams averages 11.5 points.
UCLA commit, guard DeEnd Parker, led the Rams in assists at 4.8 a game, while forward Fred Sturdivant (12.1 points) rounds out the scoring threat.
Rams coach Justin Labagh told the Guardsman student newspaper at CCSF on Feb. 26 that he thinks this team has the experience to go all the way.
“We have a deeper team, and we have more leadership this season,” Labagh said to the Guardsman.
Saddleback Coach Andy Ground said in a prepared statement that he is well aware that
“We clearly have our work cut out for ourselves this time around,” Ground said. “The two teams representing the north were the top two teams in the state all season long and it will take a tremendous effort on our part if we are going to have any success in Ventura.”
San Francisco’s only loss came in a wild, 107-103 shootout to Fresno City.
Saddleback sealed a spot in the tournament with a 66-63 victory over the Mt. San Jacinto College Eagles.
It was a nip-and-tuck battle the entire game, with neither team leading by more than 4 points at any time. The contest wasn’t decided until Saddleback’s 3-point assassin Marquis Green drilled a 22-footer with .8 seconds left, breaking a 63-63 tie for the final margin of victory.
The climactic shot brought the raucous Saddleback home crowd spilling onto the court encircling the stoic sophomore. With time still left on the clock, the referees quickly removed the crowd and restored order. Mt. San Jacinto inbounded the ball, but Eric Lawton’s desperation heave fell well short allowing Green’s teammates to hoist him on their shoulders and celebrate with the crowd once again.
The final sequence began with five seconds left as Myron Green inbounded a perfect pass to a streaking Vonchae Richardson just in front of mid-court. Richardson took the pass over his right shoulder, protecting it from his defender, and quickly hit Green who was positioned in the right corner. Although Green struggled with his shot most of the game, he calmly sank the dagger despite the Eagles aggressive double-team.
“Coach called the play, and even though I hadn’t shot well all night, I was confident. I knew I would hit the shot,” Green said. “We executed the play perfectly. Vonchae put the ball right on the money. All I had to do was catch and shoot.”
Green’s heroics would not have been possible were it not for a dominating performance by the Gauchos other Green. Myron Green (no relation), took over a ten minute stretch of the second half. The Ball State transfer sliced and diced the Eagles strategic 2-3 zone, scoring short jumpers and grabbing nearly every possible rebound.
While battling a sagging zone defense designed to keep him from touching the ball, Faines still managed to lead Saddleback in scoring, matching Myron Green’s 17 points. Green also managed to haul in eight rebounds on the night.
Both Myron and Marquis Green joined Faines on the exclusive all-conference first team.
Prince Obassi, Saddlebacks other all-conference honoree had a solid night running the Gaucho offense. The first team honorable mention guard finished with 13 points going 11-for-16 from the charity stripe, while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out three assists.
Saddleback’s smothering defense was the difference against Mt. San Jacinto, forcing the Eagles to shoot a 37 percent field goal percentage in the second half. Alternating between a zone defense and man-to-man, the Gauchos held all-Foothill Conference selections Eric Lawton, and Dakota Downs to a combined 15 points. The duo came in averaging 31 points per game between the two of them. After shooting 75 percent from the three point line in the first half, the Gauchos held the Eagles to 17 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the second half.