By Joe Dargan
Men’s basketball capped off the Citrus Invitational with a 76-62, thumping of Southwestern College on Sunday.
From the opening tip, East Los Angeles College’s ball movement was crisp, scoring the first two baskets of the game.
After a brief scoring exchange, ELAC’s Coach John Mosley, who has over 20 wins in each of his previous four seasons as the Huskies’ head coach, called an early timeout to settle his team down.
The timeout served its purpose as the team promptly went on an 10-2 run over the next three minutes.
A combination of staunch defense and unselfishness lead to a score of 17-6 with 12 minutes to go in the first half.
Focus soon gave way to complacency.
The Huskies began to miss easy shots around the basket, reaching on defense instead of moving their feet, leading to fouls and free-throw opportunities for Southwestern.
ELAC freshman guard Nick Hart and Southwestern freshman guard Quincy Ferebee traded multiple baskets midway through the first half, including a three pointer for Hart and a couple of made layups while being fouled by Ferebee.
Though the score was 31-13 in favor of ELAC, Mosley took another timeout to remind his team what was important.
“Don’t bail them out shooting quick shots. All they want to do is drive to the basket. We need to make sure we get back in transition. Keep the ball going downhill,” Mosley said.
Coming out of the timeout the team returned to its former glory, moving their feet on defense and moving the ball on offense.
Whenever the team needed a big play to continue its momentum, freshman center Solomon Hunt, who provided 21 points, was there.
He provided skillful, inside moves to the basket while also blocking and altering shots on the defensive end.
“I feel like it’s my obligation to come through for the team when we need a score. I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Solomon said after the game.
From Hart’s floaters in the lane to sophomore guard Robert Fuller’s timely outside shooting, the Huskies extended the lead to 45-26 with seven seconds to go in the half.
Southwestern inbounded the ball to Ferebee, who swiftly ran the ball down the court to hit an elbow jumper as the buzzer sounded making the score 45-29.
Southwestern came out of the locker room at halftime with lots of energy but had trouble putting the ball in the hole.
The Huskies pressed the pace with three straight scores under the basket, forcing a speedy second-half time-out by the Jaguars.
Immediately following the timeout, Hart, who finished with 21 points, stole a cross-court pass in Southwestern’s backcourt.
He was fouled as he darted toward the goal.
He made the layup, but couldn’t convert the extra point.
“The most important thing for us to do is play defense and rebound and everything else will take care of itself,” Mosley said.
With 14:44 to go, the lead had ballooned to 59-35, ELAC. That’s when Southwestern began to fight back with full court pressure.
Southwestern tightened up its defense and began to limit ELAC’s second chance points.
With better all-around team play and the help of sophomore forward Emilio Arellano’s inside scoring, including a transition dunk that sent Southwestern bench into a frenzy, the Jaguars went on a 22-7 run over a seven-minute span.
The score was 65-57 with 7:37 left in the game. That was the closest they would get.
The Huskies went on a 9-2 run that culminated in a heart-breaking three-pointer by Fuller with three minutes left in the game to extend to a 15-point, 75-61, lead.
After a couple of free throws were made by both teams, the final score was 76-62 in favor of ELAC.
The team is now 7-2 heading into the Riverside Tournament against Mt. San Jacinto on Thursday at 1 p.m.