The bar is raised tomorrow in Fresno for the Gauchos

Zach Cavanagh

FRESNO, Calif. (March 13, 2009) – Saddleback College’s men’s basketball team will confront its biggest game of the season on Saturday at Selland Arena in Fresno. The Gauchos (28-7) are matched-up against the No. 2 seed from the North, the San Joaquin Delta Mustangs, in the California Community College Athletic Association State Semifinals. Saddleback advanced to the semifinals with a victory over North No. 4 Reedley College in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

The Mustangs (29-5) are the champions of the Big 8 Conference (12-2). San Joaquin Delta advanced to the semifinals with a 71-69 victory over South No. 3 San Diego City. The Mustangs held a 19-point lead at one point only to see it slip away towards the end of the second half. The game was sealed with a Delta field goal with eight seconds left in the game.

Delta’s freshman guard Anthony Simi has led the team’s season offense with an average of 12.9 points per game, which earned him the No. 7 spot in the conference.

However, Simi wasn’t the Mustang’s predominant contributor in the quarterfinal match. Sophomore forward Walter Jackson led Delta in four major offensive categories. Jackson finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals. Jackson was also three-for-four from beyond the three-point arc.

Second in points was sophomore forward Glenn Miller with 13 points. Calvin Otiono, a freshman guard, finished second in rebounds with 10 and added eight points. Simi finished third in points with nine and added three assists and a steal.

Saddleback’s Kevin Menner continued his hot streak on Thursday playing a whale of a game. Menner put in 29 points going 9-for-17 from the field and 11-for-15 from the free-throw line. Menner also pulled down eight rebounds.

T.J. Lipold, one of the Gauchos’ clutch heroes as of late, went well above his season average of 4.4 points-per-game by racking up 11 points, good for second-most on the Gaucho squad.

While not having his normal high point total, Franklin Session dominated on the boards and defense by accruing game highs of 11 rebounds and five steals. Kyle Wallace was the helper of the night with five assists.

Saddleback and Delta had two common opponents this season. Delta met up with Saddleback’s conference rival Riverside in its third game of the season at the San Jose City Tip-Off on Nov. 8. Riverside beat the Mustangs with a score of 67-56. Saddleback split the two Orange Empire Conference meetings with Riverside losing the first at Riverside 71-57 on Jan. 28. Saddleback had the last laugh, beating the Tigers 67-65 at home on Feb. 20 to clinch the Orange Empire Conference title.

San Diego City lost the chance to get back at Saddleback when they fell to San Joaquin Delta in the CCCAA State Quarterfinals. Saddleback and San Diego City played one another on New Year’s Eve in a game where the Gauchos dominated. Saddleback came away with 72-52 victory.

The winner of Saddleback and San Joaquin Delta will face the winner of North No. 3 City College of San Francisco and South No. 4 Riverside in the State Final on Sunday.

San Francisco beat South No. 2 San Bernadino Valley, 92-87, in triple-overtime on Thursday in the first game of the day. Riverside, with its rowdy student band in tow, defeated the highly-favored and previously undefeated North No. 1 Fresno City, 71-67, in front of a large Fresno crowd. San Francisco and Riverside will start their game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Saddleback and San Joaquin Delta will tip-off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Selland Arena in Fresno.