No. 1 Saddleback advances to second round of men’s basketball playoffs

Saddleback’s Carlton Hayes (white) jumps for the opening tipoff to Saturday night’s game. The Gauchos beat the Owls 78-64. (Michael Grennell)

Michael Grennell

The Saddleback men’s basketball team continued their winning streak on Saturday night, as they defeated the Citrus College Owls 78-64. The win moved them into the second round of the California Community College Athletics Association playoffs.

The only aspects of the game that the Gauchos struggled with in the win, were turnovers and fouls. For the second game in a row, Saddleback turned over the ball 18 times. It was the 10th time this season that the Gauchos had 18 or more turnovers. The Owls took advantage of that, as they scored 24 points off of Gaucho turnovers. Most of Saddleback’s foul trouble came up late in the game, as 17 of the 25 fouls the Gauchos were charged with came in the second half. Citrus scored 24 of their points from the free throw line thanks to Saddleback’s fouls. Saddleback’s 25 fouls were the most they were charged with since their 89-53 win at El Camino-Compton center in December, when they were charged with 26 fouls. “We struggled a bit, but that happens,” sophomore guard McKay LaSalle said. “We ended up pulling it out. We had stretches where we played well and it was enough to win.”

Coach Andy Ground said after the game that despite the low ranking opponent, it was a hard game for the Gauchos. “It was a tough matchup, especially as a first round game for us,” Ground said. “[Citrus is] always good. They are not a 17 seed team as far as ability is concerned.” Ground continued on to say that Saddleback’s defense was the key to success against the Owls. Ground said that limiting the high scoring Owls offense to under 70 points was one of the biggest pre-game goals for the Gauchos.

Sophomore guard AJ Brevard led the Gauchos with a game high 25 points in the win. Brevard’s scoring outburst was also his highest scoring game of the season. Most of Brevard’s scoring came from long range, as he went 4-5 from beyond the three-point line. “He’s a guy who can really score,” Ground said of Brevard. “He’s very intelligent on the court.” Brevard also pulled down five rebounds, along with getting two assists and a steal.

LaSalle gave a lot of credit for the win to Brevard’s performance, going so far as to call him the MVP of the game. “He’s the reason we won,” LaSalle said. “He held us in there when we were struggling. He was hitting his shots, he was playing great defense on [the Owl’s] lead scorer. He was the man of the night.”

Brevard was very humble when talking about his outstanding performance. “Yeah, I guess I had a great shooting night,” Brevard said with a grin. “My teammates were finding me, and I had the open shot.”

OEC co-MVP LaSalle was dropping shots from beyond the arc throughout the night, as all five of his baskets came from three-point range. LaSalle ended the night with 16 points, four rebounds, a block, and a steal. Saddleback’s leading scorer and OEC First Team selection Darnell Taylor led the Gauchos with a season high three blocks in the win. Taylor also scored 13 points and pulled down five rebounds, while being charged with a season high five personal fouls.

No. 1 Saddleback (26-4) will face off at home against No. 9 East Los Angeles College (21-7) in the second round of the CCCAA playoffs on Wednesday Mar. 6. The East Los Angeles Huskies advanced to the second round after beating the MiraCosta College Spartans 76-62 on Saturday night. Even as the Gauchos walked off the court, Ground was focused on their matchup against the Huskies. “I went and watched [East Los Angeles] last night. They are very talented and their kids can really shoot it,” Ground said. “If we had the same performance we had tonight, we will not be successful.” Brevard was more optimistic about Wednesday night’s game, as he said, “We’re going to prepare for it, and go in and get the win.”

With a Saddleback win on Wednesday, the Gauchos will advance to take on the winner of the Palomar-Chaffey matchup. The winner of that game will then advance to the state semifinals which start Friday Mar. 15 at Consumnes River College.

Box Score

Game Play-by-Play

CCCAA Men’s Basketball Southern Regionals Bracket

Sophomore guard AJ Brevard led the Gauchos to victory on Saturday with a season high 25 points. Brevard was 8-13 from the field, and 4-5 from three-point range. (Michael Grennell)

Gauchos leading scorer Darnell Taylor put up 13 points in the win over the Owls. Taylor also had five rebounds, and a season high three blocks. (Michael Grennell)

OEC co-MVP McKay LaSalle steps up to the line for a free throw. LaSalle was 5-12 from the field in the win, all five shots being made from three-point range. (Michael Grennell)

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