By Tadzio Garcia
The San Diego Mesa College Holiday Inn Mission Valley Tournament ended with the only ranked teams from a field of eight in the championship game. It was the No. 13-ranked team in the state against the No. 14-ranked from the Southern California poll.
The favored No. 13-ranked Huskies did not disappoint and won its first tournament in several years beating Santa Ana College, 75-55, in the title game yesterday.
After playing seven games in 15 days, then having a three week layoff, ELAC won three games in three days improving their non-conference record to 11-3 overall.
The Huskies came out cold in their first two games of the tournament winning two squeakers before putting it together in the title game to win in a rout.
“We had 21 days off so we were rusty in our first two games and did not shoot well. We were looking to play in conference form in the final game,” Head Coach John Mosley said.
Key to the big win against Santa Ana was a team effort. ELAC was boarding the basketball and handled the ball against the press.
“Our wings, Elson Vessel and Dushon Carter as well as Chris Brown were key to the win by handling the full court press,” Assistant Coach Brendan Hallinan said.
Leading the Husky scoring brigade were point guard’s Brown who scored 20 points, including four three-point shots, and Dushon Carter who pumped in 13. Power forward Aaron Cheatum also scored 13 points.
“That trio of guys did damage—men on a mission leading us to that victory,” Hallinan said.
In the semifinals, the Huskies beat a tough Cypress team, 72-65 in overtime, to reach the title game. Mosley played the entire team. “We were fatigued but kept fighting, and we attacked more in overtime,” Brown said.
Carter was fouled on a three-point attempt with seconds left. He knocked down two of three free throws to tie the game. Davon Potts, leading scorer for Cypress, attempted a floater from the baseline as time expired. Guarded by point guard Harris Javier, Potts missed and the game went into overtime.
“The stamina of our guys in overtime gave us another level, which put us over the top for the win,” Hallinan said.
Key was that the Huskies locked down on defense in overtime. “Their big men got in foul trouble in overtime and we were able to take advantage of that,” Carter said. Carter knocked in three three-point shots in the win.
The Huskies opened tournament play facing host Mesa. “The host team tends to schedule what they consider the weakest of the other teams with their assumption that we (ELAC) would be the weakest of the seven teams. They underestimated us,” Assistant Coach David Ng said.
While the Huskies opened up struggling with Mesa’s zone, they came back in a timely manner and pulled out a 73-68 victory. “Javier did a great job and Zac Hinton was tremendous off the bench,” Ng said.
ELAC crashed the glass hard and shouldered the rebounds. “To be able to come out and play a tough team on their home floor in their tourney, we came out focused, involved our bench and limited our fouling with solid fundamental defense,” Hallinan said.
The Huskies opened with a 10-2 run and were ahead most of the game. “We had to control the tempo against the home team. They came back but we kept fighting,” Cheatum said.
Overall the Huskies closed out the first half of the season with their most successful start in well over a decade. “Now it’s a new season for us. In order to make the playoffs, we have to play the second half of the season liked we played the first,” Mosley said.
Standing in the way for a South Coast Conference title is No. 3-ranked Mt. SAC. According to the coaches’ poll, it is Mt. SAC’s title to lose. Mt. SAC, 13-1 overall, beat ELAC 71-63, on December 1 when the Huskies were not healthy.
SCC showdown No. 1 will be at ELAC on January 18. “I believe we will be healthy this time against Mt. SAC. It’s going to be a great game. I can’t wait. I will enjoy it,” Brown said.
ELAC opens SCC play hosting El Camino College Compton Center in the men’s gym at 5 p.m. on January 9 in the first game of a doubleheader. The women’s team will play against LA Trade Tech College at 7 p.m.