Saddleback forward Breaon Brady (white jersey) puts up a layup while East Los Angeles College players look on. Brady had a double double for the game, getting 12 points and 12 assists. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)
For the second consecutive season, the Saddleback College men’s basketball team is going to the California Community College Athletic Association state championship tournament after defeating East Los Angeles College, 68-58 on Saturday. The Gauchos also got their 30th victory of the year and move to 30-1 overall.
Saddleback won the state championship, their third in school history, by beating East LA, 50-47. That Gauchos team is a very different one from the squad this season though, because Saddleback did not return any starters this year.
“We’ve put in a lot of work and a lot of effort all year long,” said Saddleback head coach Andy Ground. “We replaced the whole group from last year, not one starter back, and so it means a lot.”
The Gauchos started Saturday’s contest with a bang, going on a 16-2 run in just over six minutes of play. The pace of the game then slowed, but Saddleback remained in the lead by double digits and with 8:40 left in the first half, the Gauchos had a 23-9 lead.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of half, until the Huskies went on a small scoring run to cut Saddleback’s lead to 34-24 at halftime.
A big reason for the Gauchos first half dominance was due to their outrebounding of East LA. Saddleback had a 28-15 rebound differential and a 12-2 offensive rebound differential at the half. This rebounding display led to many second-chance points.
“We denied their best player the ball and we still had to play defense and made sure we got the offensive boards and defensive boards,” said Saddleback guard Devonte Klines.
When the second half started, the Huskies came out strong, getting four quick points and cutting the Gauchos lead to six points. The teams went back and forth for a while, until East LA gradually started to cut into the Saddleback lead more and more. With 9:37 left in the game, the score was 46-44.
That was the closest the Huskies would get to tying the Gauchos for the rest of the contest. Soon after that 9:37 mark, Saddleback went on an 8-2 run and moved their lead to a much more comfortable 54-46.
East LA tried making another comeback, via three-pointers and free throws—they were nearly successful, getting the Gauchos lead down to 60-57 with 1:17 left in the game. Once again, though, Saddleback pulled away, going on an 8-1 scoring run to get to the final score of 68-58.
Gauchos guard TJ Shorts (white jersey) tries to keep the ball away from an ELAC defender. Saddleback will play Fresno City College in the semifinals of the CCCAA state tournament on Saturday at Los Positas College. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)
“Any time we are down, we never feel like we are going to lose the game,” said Saddleback forward Breaon Brady. “We’re never gonna get down on any team any game, because there is a 50/50 chance [we win or lose] any ballgame.”
A host of Gauchos put up big numbers in the game. Guard Maurice Jones led Saddleback in scoring, getting 13 points, and adding six rebounds to his stats. Brady led the team in rebounds with 12 and got 12 points, giving him a double double. Klines and guard TJ Shorts contributed 12 and 10 points respectively,both players with three assists.
After the game, Ground expressed his happiness for the team’s rebounding and stressed the need for it, considering how tough of an opponent the Huskies were. Six of his players got four or more boards in the contest and the whole team outrebounded East LA, 48-33.
“We had to defend and rebound. They were big and athletic and tough and we did a good job of taking away their drives,” Ground said.
The Gauchos will now travel up to Las Positas College in Livermore, California to continue their season. Saddleback will play Fresno City College (28-6) in the semifinals of the state tournament. Other teams in the tournament include Chaffey College and City College of San Francisco.
“I expect better teams,” Klines said. “The competition is gonna get better each and every day, so we’ll come into practice and work hard.”
Brady was quick to attribute his his success to his team, saying that this championship is one of the biggest things to happen in his athletic career.
“It’s amazing, this is my first time being a part of anything this big and I gotta just thank my teammates, they got me here,” Brady said. “It’s gonna be tough. It’s definitely gonna be tough. I’ve never been this far, but I’m happy and excited.”
The game in Northern California will be on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Saddleback guard Charles Trotter (No. 11) drives to the basket while being defended by an ELAC player. The Gauchos have a 30-1 overall record and are currently on a 24-game winning streak. (Nick Nenad/Lariat)