IVC Lasers win Orange Empire Conference game against Saddleback Gauchos

Sophomore guard Dathon Spencer attempts a shot during last year's game at Saddleback College. Spencer scored 12 points off the bench in the win on Wednesday night.

Sophomore guard Dathon Spencer attempts a shot during last year’s game at Saddleback College. Spencer scored 12 points off the bench in the win on Wednesday night.

The Irvine Valley College men’s basketball team improved to 3-0 in conference play Wednesday evening, after defeating Saddleback College 64-63 in overtime.

WATCH: final 90 sec of the first half

After a dismal first half in which they shot 4-21 from the floor, the IVC Lasers came out on fire in the second half, shooting 11-20 from the floor to battle back from a 26-13 deficit at halftime. Sophomore guard Shaquille Hunter stepped up big in the second half, leading the Lasers with 13 points, including the game-tying free throw with 17 seconds left in the second half.

“[Saddleback was] tougher and more physical than us early,” Lasers head coach Jerry Hernandez said. “I thought if we just did a better job setting up and screening, we’d be allowed to execute, and we executed much better in the second half.”

Despite taking the lead early in overtime, with 16.4 seconds left the Lasers trailed the Gauchos 63-61. After Saddleback swatted the ball out of bounds, IVC inbounded the ball to Hunter, who hit the game-winning three from the corner with 1.5 seconds left in overtime.

“Jimmy Golden got the inbound, penetrated, kicked it off to Shaq, and [Hunter] hit the big three in the corner,” Hernandez said. “It’s different guys on different nights. Our power and strengths [tonight] were Declan [Daly] and Shaq and Jimmy.”

After the game, Saddleback head coach Andy Ground was disappointed by his team’s performance in the loss. “I thought we played poorly, we didn’t defend like we were supposed to defend, and we put them at the line all night long and that was the difference in the game,” Ground said. “We just have to prepare for Orange Coast. It’s one game, it doesn’t make or break the season. Just go to the next one.”

Hunter finished the night with 15 points, two rebounds, and three assists. Freshman guard Jimmy Golden led the team with 16 points, while sophomore center Declan Daly scored 11 points with four rebounds and three blocks.

“Declan Daly is our big post, he was fantastic,” Hernandez said. “Jimmy had been struggling so I’m really excited to see him have a great game”

The Lasers saw a lot of production from off their bench, including sophomore guard Dathon Spencer, who finished the night with 12 points, two steals, and a rebound in 14 minutes of play.

The Gauchos were unable to hold on for the win, despite having three of the five high scorers in the game. McPhail led the Gauchos with a game-high 20 points, shooting 5-11 from the field and 10-12 from the foul line. McPhail also recorded seven rebounds, a block, and two steals in the loss. Sophomore forward Eric Thompson came up one rebound short of his 11th double-double of the season, ending the night with 13 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks.

The win gave the Lasers a 1-0 advantage in the annual President’s Cup competition between Saddleback and IVC. The President’s Cup goes to the school with the most wins in the season series when the men’s and women’s basketball teams face off. Last year, the IVC men’s team lost 51-49 at Saddleback, after a last second shot by former Laser Zach Mills to send the game to overtime came up just short. Saddleback would go on to win the President’s Cup after the women’s team defeated IVC 52-44.

The Lasers (18-1, 3-0) will travel to Santa Ana College on Friday, where they will take on the second place Dons (8-8, 2-0) at 5:30 p.m. The Gauchos (15-4, 1-1) will also be on the road for three of their next four games, as they start off by traveling to Orange Coast College to take on the Pirates (6-13, 0-2) at 5:30 p.m.