Gauchos men’s basketball season ended by Riverside

Darnell Taylor drives to the basket and lays it in during the first half of the second round matchup with Riverside City College. Taylor made only two of 10 shots in the 50-41 defeat. (Tameem Seraj)

Tameem Seraj

The Gauchos’ season ended on Wednesday night with a loss to the Riverside City College Tigers in the second round of the playoffs.

Just like in the first round of the playoffs, the Gauchos didn’t feel like they were playing in a home game as the Tigers fans easily outnumbered the Gauchos supporters. At one point in the game a cheer squad for Riverside took to the sideline and did some cheers while no cheer squad for the Gauchos were present.

Saddleback had a tough time getting baskets all night as the Tigers stingy defense kept the Gauchos to only 17.4 percent shooting in the first half and 24.5 percent for the game.

“We missed a lot of easy shots,” coach Andy Ground said. “That’s what did us in.”

The Gauchos were ice cold from behind the arc too, only making one out of 12 attempts. Some of those 3-point attempts were air balls and the Tigers crowd let them know it. But despite Saddleback’s shooting woes, the game was tied at 13 at halftime because of good defense by the Gauchos.

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, the teams were not able to make any runs and the score was tied at 23. But Riverside created some separation with back-to-back 3-pointers with seven minutes remaining.

The Tigers extended their lead to eight with two minutes remaining by getting to the line 22 times in the second half and making 16 of them. The Gauchos tried to foul and send the Tigers to the line but didn’t miss any of their free throws down the stretch and would win a game that had 11 lead changes and was tied six times.

Saddleback forward Darnell Taylor was the leading scorer of the game with 17 points despite making only two shots out of 10 attempts. Taylor did most of his damage from the line making 13 out of 14 free throws and had four rebounds.

Guard Josh Smith had four points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Gauchos.

Riverside won despite having none of their players score in double figures. Their leading scorer was Dominique Lanier with nine and their leading rebounder was Bernard Ireland with seven.

Saddleback finished their season with a 20-9 record. They were a young team with only two sophomores and Ground was impressed with their efforts this season. Ground expects most of the team to return for next season.

“We had a strong freshman class this season and we reached the Sweet 16 which is about what I expected from them,” Ground said. “I expect to have about eight of the players to return next season to make another playoff run.”

Devin Golston spins off a defender during the first half. Riverside’s defense held Saddleback to 24.5 percent shooting for the game. (Tameem Seraj)