RE-DUNK-ULOUS (Shannon Patrick)
There is an old saying that when it rains, it pours. That is certainly the current case for the Irvine Valley College Men’s basketball team. Already on a five-game losing streak and a 0-4 Orange Empire Conference record, the Lasers dropped a close game to Santa Ana 41-39 at home on Jan. 21.
Santa Ana took the lead in the final minute, but IVC had one more chance with the ball in the hands of their leading scorer, Jeff Ledbetter. Ledbetter would drive the lane and put up a floating jump-shot that was promptly blocked by a Santa Ana defender to end the game. The loss could not just be pinned on that final minute, however, as the Lasers shot only nine for 48, or 18.8 percent, for the game. Ledbetter paced the Lasers on offense with 10 points, but converted only two of his attempted 14 shots. Matt Ballard was a bright spot for IVC with his team-high 11 rebounds.
IVC could ill-afford any more negative news going into their Jan. 23 home match against Cypress College, but the Lasers learned they would be without the services of Jeff Ledbetter and his team-leading 13.6 points per game.
“It is definitely hard and a big challenge,” head coach Jerry Hernandez said, “but we have to keep together.”
Early on it looked as if IVC had listened to their head coach matching the Chargers basket for basket for the first 24 points of the game, keeping the game tied at 12 all. Sean Starkey would come off the bench for the Chargers midway through the first half to give them a spark on a 12-3 run, of which Starkey had eight points. The Lasers would claw back into the game with a run of their own to bringing the deficit to only five going into halftime.
“We got close at the end of the half with small contributions from all around,” Coach Hernandez said. “When it came to the second half, we just failed to execute. We had trouble sustaining the effort.”
Cypress continued to apply the pressure going on a 13-2 run to open the second half. The Charger lead would grow to as large as 19 points in the second half. IVC pulled out their chisels and chipped at the lead to bring the game back within eight points with about four minutes remaining. However, Cypress was able to dangle the carrot just out of IVC’s reach in that final stretch and hand the Lasers another loss with the final of 66-57.
Despite the loss, several individuals continued to put forth a good effort for the Lasers. Kwame Alexander continued to be a bright spot for the squad putting up 10 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double. Carlos Pinto led the team in scoring with 12 points and in blocks with two. Matt Ballard also put in a 10-point effort along with seven rebounds.
IVC may not be on the top of the standings with a 10-15 overall record and a 0-6 OEC record, but that’s not the goal at this point.
“We have to continue to look for positive improvement,” Coach Hernandez said. “We just have to keep climbing the mountain.”
The team may be down on themselves, but Coach Hernandez says that the blame is not entirely on them. “I’ve never been in a situation like this before, but I’ve got to take some of the blame myself. I’ve got to get them ready and prepared.”
Coach Hernandez will have plenty of time to get things in order before the Lasers next contest on Jan. 30 in Fullerton against the Hornets, currently ranked No. 20 in California.