By Andrew Ruiz
Freshman forward Marquis Salmon and sophomore guard Je’Ron Primus combined for 54 points as the East Los Angeles College men’s basketball team defeated Victor Valley College, 96-91, on Feb. 25 in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association Southern Regional playoffs.
From the moment the ball tipped, the level of intensity was high as both teams were competing for one objective: an opportunity to keep their season alive and head into the second round playoffs.
But on Wednesday, the Huskies kept their season alive and got revenge on the Rams after an 86-80 loss on Dec. 28 in the San Diego Mesa Tournament.
“It feels great (to come out with a win),” Primus said. “It was a tough game and we all fought hard in the second half.”
The Rams were the aggressors in the first half as sharpshooting sophomore guard Max Berkeley was red hot from behind the arc. Berkeley scored 19 first half points shooting four for eight from 3-point land.
After being down 52-46 at the half, Primus’ message to the team in the locker room was similar to Head Coach John Mosley’s before the Huskies took the court against Los Angeles Trade Technical College on Feb. 18.
“You either want to go home or you want to go far (in the playoffs),” Primus said. “I just kept telling the team that. That’s what I put in my teammates’ heads coming into the second half.”
The message would stick as ELAC came out on a 7-0 run to take the 53-52 lead. The Huskies would never trail in the game.
The Rams had no answer for Salmon’s inside presence as the 6-foot-7 swingman had 15 of his 27 points in the first half. He also finished the game with 14 rebounds, but his last defensive rebound with less than 10 seconds left was the difference-maker after Rams sophomore guard Chris Evans’ layup to force the game into overtime came up short.
“I just tried to be really aggressive and pursue the ball. A lot of times, they were rebounds and put backs,” Salmon said. “I saw a mismatch and tried to exploit it quickly to execute my height and finesse.”
Victor Valley’s big men were well aware of Salmon’s finesse as he showed his ability to take his defenders off the dribble or stretch out the defense and drain mid-range jump shots when needed.
“(Marquis) played a great game,” Victor Valley Head Coach Robert Godinez said. “He was unstoppable for us (to guard). Whenever we had our momentum going, he put a stop to that. He’s a great player.”
ELAC freshman guard Miles Ford was another key contributor scoring 11 of the Huskies’ 20 bench points.
The No. 13-ranked Huskies will travel Saturday Feb. 28 to play No. 4-ranked Antelope Valley College at 7 p.m. ELAC defeated Antelope Valley, 83-79, back on Nov. 16 in the Alvin Hunter Classic at San Bernardino Valley College.
“They’re good,” Mosley said of the Marauders. “They have (NCAA) Division 1 players and high-level scorers. They’re talented, have five losses and are a fourth seed, so it’s going to be a high-level game. We just have to rebound, defend and control possessions.”