Gauchos men’s basketball triumphs in first round of playoffs against San Diego City

Freshman forward Darnell Taylor handles the ball while being defended by Knights guard Stephon Lamar. (Photo by Tameem Seraj)

Tameem Seraj

Gauchos move on to the next round of the playoffs with a gritty win at home Friday night against San Diego City College 65-55.

The home game for the Gauchos didn’t feel much like a home game, as most of the crowd in attendance was supporters of the San Diego City Knights. The Knights fans brought signs and were making more noise than the Gauchos supporters throughout the game but the Gauchos were not rattled.

The first half was heated and went back and forth with six lead changes. The Knights went into halftime with the lead at 28-27.

The Gauchos shot 41.4 percent from the field in the first half and 0-for-3 from behind the arc. The Knights 3-point shooting wasn’t very impressive either in the first half as they made only one on nine attempts.

Saddleback uncharacteristically shot poorly from the free throw line, when they only made three out of eight attempts from the charity stripe in the first half.

The Gauchos came out in the second half with improved shooting and defense. Saddleback opened up an eight point lead with seven minutes remaining but poor free throw shooting kept the Knights in the game. Freshman guard Miles Green had an off night from the line shooting only 4-for-12.

The Gauchos outworked the Knights in the second half and as a result were getting fouled and sent to the free throw line. Saddleback went to the line 27 times in the second half but only made 17. The Gauchos free throw percentage for the game was 57.1 percent.

Saddleback won despite only making one 3-pointer in the game. Instead the Gauchos relied on a strong performance in the paint from their forwards. Saddleback outscored San Diego City 32-20 in the paint.

Saddleback pushed the tempo well scoring 14 fast break points compared to eight for the Knights. The game had 11 lead changes and was tied seven times. The Gauchos held the advantage in rebounds as they brought down 40 rebounds compared to the Knights’ 31.

“I thought we rebounded the ball well and defended well down the stretch,” head coach Andy Ground said.

The Gauchos were led by freshman forward Alex Worthen-Harris who scored 13 points and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Josh Smith was only limited to 20 minutes due to foul trouble but play well when he was on the floor, especially on the defensive end. Smith had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks.

Freshman forward Darnell Taylor also had a strong performance with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists. The leading scorer of the game was Knights guard Marvin Sykes with 19 but Sykes was the only player for San Diego City that scored in double digits as they struggled to find a consistent offense.

“Next game will be awful tough. We have to work on our defense and taking care of the ball in the offensive end and executing,” Ground said about the next round.