Winning a three-day tournament is notable. Winning each of the games by a double-digit margin is exceptional.
Irvine Valley reached the top of the IVC Classic bracket in impressive manner, pounding out 88-63, 67-54 and 79-68 wins to finish as champion of its own tournament for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
“The overall focus of the team is about playing hard, playing smart and playing together,” said sophomore forward Blake Wallace. “We believe we control our own destiny and where we end up is on us. It all just depends on how hard we want to work day in and day out.”
The Lasers (5-0), who entered the weekend ranked eighth in the state, knocked their highest ranking in program history to the next level with the latest trio of wins.
IVC is now ranked No. 3, beneath San Joaquin Delta, which jumped up to No. 1 after winning the Cosumnes River Tournament, and No. 2 Fullerton, which capped off its 6-0 start after winning its own tournament.
The Lasers opened tournament play Thursday against Santa Monica College. Powered by four starters scoring in double digits, they shot 52.5 percent from the field to advance to the semifinals with an 88-63 win.
Jeff Ledbetter, Kashif Watson and center AJ Kapanoske racked up 14 points each. Ledbetter added five assists, Watson had 10 rebounds and four steals, and Kapanoske finished with seven rebounds.
Wallace had 11 points and six rebounds and Brandon Hucks contributed eight points and 11 rebounds. “Having such a deep roster really is a blessing,” Wallace said. “I also believe this is our biggest strength.”
Defense was the story in Friday’s semifinal as IVC held Cerritos College to just 31.1 percent shooting and helped force 23 Hawks turnovers to sails to a 67-54 win.
The Lasers jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the second half with a 14-2 opening run, and the game was theirs from then on. Their advantage grew to a game-high 56-32 after sophomore center Bryce Webster charged in for a lay-up off an assist by Wallace.
Friday’s win lifted the hosts to the first title game of their own tournament since the 2001-02 season.
Freshman guard Perry Webster led the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Freshman guard La’Shard Anderson had 11 points, six rebounds and four steals. Ledbetter finished with 11 points.
The Lasers found themselves at the top of the bracket after a late-game run sealed the 79-68 win over Long Beach City College in Saturday’s final.
While the Lasers held the lead throughout most the game, Long Beach City kept at their heals until the final two minutes. A lay-up by guard Matt Richard pulled the Vikings within 69-66 with 2:06 left to play before IVC hammered out a 10-2 run to put it away.
Watson scored inside to increase the Lasers’ lead to 71-66. In the remaining 59.3 seconds, IVC went 8-8 from the free throw line to seal the victory.
“I believe a game like Long Beach City really shows the character of our team and our will and desire to succeed and attain our goals,” Wallace said. “They were a very talented team.”
Wallace led the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Ledbetter added 15 points and five rebounds. Webster finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Anderson pitched in 10 points and four steals.
Webster was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Anderson, Wallace and Ledbetter were named to the all-tournament team.
The Lasers look to continue their undefeated start when participate in the American River Tournament. The three-day tournament kicks off Nov. 29.