Daniel Young (35) soaring to the rim for Saddleback College in a blowout win at home against Santa Ana on Tuesday. (Jacob Tatham/Lariat)
It is safe to say that Saddleback men’s basketball has been doing well. They have not lost a game since Nov. 28 and had no intention on losing one on Tuesday at home against Santa Ana.
As the game tipped off, it became clear from very early on that the main difference between the two teams was size. Santa Ana’s lack of tall players on their roster was an instant problem as they did not match of well against the 6’9″ Brandon Fagins and 6’8″ Breaon Brady.
Brady immediately established himself as the best player on the court as his size and coordination helped him score in the paint with ease. After putting up 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists in just 13 minutes, he was given the remainder of the game to rest. The Gauchos then focused their attention to defense as they were only up by one.
Saddleback’s star point guard T.J. Shorts used this opportunity to take the game over as the remainder of the first half involved him exploding to the rim on play after play. His elusive speed and ball handling made him so dangerous on fast breaks that the Dons had no choice but to foul him multiple times.
Maurice Jones’ 3-point shot followed by a booming block by Brandon Fagins gave the Gauchos a 46-28 lead at halftime. T.J. Shorts finished the night early with 14 points, 3 assists and 3 steals.
Lyle Hexom (31) shooting a free-thow during Saddleback home win home against Santa Ana on Tuesday.
Going into the second half, Santa Ana needed a serious momentum shift, but had no answer as Saddleback brought in a new game plan that centered around the 6’8 forward Daniel Young. His fancy footwork and size dominated the remainder of the game and even resulted in two rim-rattling dunks.
The team was all smiles as they finished out the game, exploding in celebration whenever Hayden Fredrick drove to the rim. The game ended in a 92-55 win for Saddleback where they shot an impressive 57.6 percent from the field. It was a team win where every player got involved and found success at some point throughout the game.
“We’re just gonna take it one game at a time and try to have a perfect conference,” Young said regarding the upcoming playoffs. “We just take in what the coaches are trying to give us and try to get prepared for every game we play.”
Coach Ground was pleased with the win, but seemed far from satisfied.
“I though we did a good job defensively, taking away the stuff that they got last time that we played,” Ground said. “We’re just playing however the game dictates. We’ll take it one game at a time. We have three league games left and our focus right now is on Irvine Valley.”
Defense seemed to be the major theme on Tuesday and a key to success moving forward.
“Basically we wanted to take away the drives, take away dribble penetration, make them shoot outside shots and just defend.” said freshman guard Devonte Klines.
Saddleback improved to 24-1 as the regular season is coming to a close and playoffs are just around the corner.