Irvine Valley forward Kwame Alexander and Matt Ballard attempt to get the offensive rebound from Tigers Guard, Robbie Robinson. The Lasers almost pulled out the upset against the Tigers in a 71-66 loss, last Friday evening at the Hart Gymnasium. (Shannon Patrick)
Irvine Valley College has not won in the Orange Empire Conference this season, so their trip to Orange Coast last Wednesday was especially memorable. The Lasers (11-15 overall, 1-8 in OEC) took out their season-long frustration on the Pirates, connecting on 76.2 percent of their shots (32-of-42) and won their first conference game of the season, 85-73. It was also payback for IVC’s 86-83 heartbreaking home loss to their league rivals earlier this year.
Sophomore guard Jeff Ledbetter (Orange Lutheran High) led the Laser charge with 18 points, yet even more impressive were IVC’s reserves, who made an unforgettable 18-of-19 shots from the field. Freshman guard Andrew Arnold (Gahr High) was perfect from the field (10-for-10) and finished with a team-high 20 points, while sophomore center Matt Ballard (Trabuco Hills High) scored nine points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
The Pirates had no answer for the red-hot Laser shooters, who also limited OCC to just seven field goals in the first half. IVC held the Pirates to an icy-cold 37 percent shooting on the night, as the Lasers’ first victory since Dec. 30 turned into a rout early.
Friday night was another payback game for IVC, as they took on Riverside, a team that had beaten them earlier this season by 14. Back home after two straight road contests, the Lasers trailed the Tigers by 12 points late in the game until IVC stormed back to tie the game, 66-66 on Ledbetter’s three-pointer with 1:16 remaining. Riverside’s David Morris then nailed a jumper and hit three free throws to seal the visitor’s 71-66 victory.
Ledbetter led all Laser scorers against Riverside with 23 points and three assists, while sophomore forward Jon Reed (Peninsula High) poured in 16 points and dished out six assists. Sophomore forward Brandon Hucks (LB Wilson High) tallied 13 points against the Tigers and freshman forward Kwame Alexander (Rancho Verde High) scored five points and grabbed five rebounds in the confidence-building defeat.
The Lasers seek to avenge two previous conference losses this week starting with powerhouse Saddleback (22-6, 7-1 OEC) at home tonight. They travel to Santa Ana (12-13, 2-6 OEC) on Friday to take on the Dons.