By Dan Gudino
The round-two playoff win, 79-77, at Mount San Jacinto College puts men’s basketball into the sweet 16 of the state tournament and into the semifinal of Southern California Playoff Regional.
ELAC began the first half with an 18 point lead, but let Mt. San Jacinto comeback, causing them to fight their way for the win.
With a 77-77 tie and 11 seconds to go, ELAC head coach John Mosley called timeout and drew up a play for sophomore guard Sequan Walker, who missed a jump shot, but sophomore forward Zeno Lake was in the perfect position to put back Walker’s miss with a tip-in layup.
“I just wanted us to play harder because I know we could’ve kept our lead throught the game. I’m just glad we came out with the win and are moving closer to states,” said sophomore guard Walker.
Lake’s layup left two seconds on the clock and allowed one last attempt for overtime, or a Mt. San Jacinto comeback win. “I feel we won the game as a team, it wasnt’t an individual person who caused us to win.” said sophomore forward Lake.
Mt.San Jacinto sophomore guard Tre Nottingham was called upon to give his team a last shot but missed. As the horn blew, a moment of confusion and anxiety fell through out the gym because a whistle was blown right at the horn. The fans in attendance and both teams stood in place awaiting the huddled referees to come out with a decision.
Mt. San Jacinto fans thought Nottingham may have been fouled ,which could have led to him at the foul line.
But as fast as the refs gathered together, they seperated, signaling no foul and ran off the court, leaving Mt. San Jacinto fans shouting in displeasure, “ELAC escaped.”
“We were put in a tough spot because of our own foul trouble. It threw us off because our game plan instantly changed. We were forced into a lineup change,” Mosley said.
ELAC’s lack of offense in the second half opened the door for a possible comeback, allowing Mt. San Jacinto to score 10 or more points. “It was tough without (sophomore guard Chandler) Redix and (freshman guard) Frank Bertz in the game because (their) guards were great. “It was hard trying to find the right matchup and it changed our rotation of players,” Mosley said.
The veteran leadership of sophomores gave the Huskies a comfortable lead through the first half. Husky sophomores, Lake, Walker, forward Roderick Williams and forward Chima Wami carried ELAC, scoring 39 of the 51 first half points for the Huskies, outscoring the 37 total points of Mt. San Jacinto.
“Mosely coached a h ell of a game, we played to the best of our abilities, and the team came together which caused everybody to play at a higher level and trust our coaches. We’re one step closer to the championship,” said sophomore forward Williams.
The production of the first half disappeared. Turnovers in costly moments allowed a three-pointer from Mt. San Jacinto to tie the game at 72-72, with under three minutes to go.
ELAC ignored the raucous home crowd and went on to drain five consecutive free throws, closing the game with Lake’s tip in.
The 77-mile drive to Mt. San Jacinto marked the third time the Huskies faced them this season. ELAC with a 2-1 advantage marked the fourth time in two season the teams have played each other.
Earlier in the season at the Cuesta College Tournament, Mosley made history by capturing his 100th career victory as ELAC’s head coach, against the same Mt. San Jacinto team, winning 87-85. Mosley who is in his fifth season, has eclipsed 20 or more wins in each season and has an impressive 111-38 overall record in his five years at ELAC.
ELAC will now face South Coast Conference Champions in the California Community College Athletics Association at El Camino Compton Center College. Compton possesses the best offense in the state.
It is the highest scoring team and has scored the most points this season.
“They’ll play fast and press (on defense) the whole game, that’s why usually, both teams will score so much,” Mosley said.
Compton who is ranked No. 2 in Southern California , is considered the No. 5 team by MasseyRatings. com.
“Knowing that we are playing such a great team make us lock in and focus more. We have so much respect for their program and players. We wouldn’t have any other way and we’ll leave it all on the court,” ELAC Assistant Coach Darren French said.
All games will be played on Sat, Mar. 3 at 7 p.m. California Community College Athletic Association Champions start March 10-12 at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA. Eight teams qualify, four from the north and four from the south.