by Tadzio Garcia
The state’s No. 16-ranked East Los Angeles College men’s basketball team beat No. 12 San Bernardino Valley College, 82-76, in the semifinals of the Riverside City College Holiday Tournament yesterday.
“It was a huge win. We beat them two weeks ago and knew it would be harder this time around. The team was not nervous and adjusted to their play by maneuvering around them,” ELAC’s forward Aaron Cheatum said.
The Huskies, 8-2 overall, will play No. 3 Chaffey College (12-2) in the tournament’s title game tonight at 7 p.m.
Chaffey was an 89-70 winner over host Riverside (4-7) in the other semifinal game.
ELAC beat Los Angeles Pierce College (5-10) 75-71 in the quarterfinals and No. 7 Mt. San Jacinto College (6-3) 68-66 in the first round.
“It’s good to play ranked teams. It prepares us for the South Coast Conference and the playoffs,” Cheatum said.
The SCC North Division boasts four ranked teams in the state’s No. 15-ranked Pasadena City College (7-4) as well as Los Angeles Trade Tech (8-3) and Mt. San Antonio (7-3) colleges, ranked No.11 and No. 15, respectively, in the Southern California poll.
SCC North rival El Camino College Compton Center (4-6) upset Citrus College (5-4), 89-82, and will face the state’s No. 6 Antelope Valley College for the consolation championship.
Trade Tech will meet the state’s No. 1 team in Saddleback College for fifth place. Saddleback was upset by San Bernardino 50-49 in the quarterfinals.
“We guarded San Bernardino well and handled their big guys,” ELAC Head Coach John Mosley said.
San Bernardino’s 6 feet 9 inch tall Kindell Kinloch was held scoreless by the Huskies. His 6’9” teammates Marcus Fuggins and Steven Adams were held to three and seven points scoring, respectively. 6’8” Wolverine Darren Smith was also held scoreless by ELAC.
“(Our) guys wanted to win and won it with good defense, but we are just scratching the surface on offense,” Mosley said.
San Bernardino controlled the beginning of the first half leading 24-15 with 7:49 left. ELAC scratched its way back to be down at halftime, 43-38.
The Huskies broke the game open leading 51-38 with 9:45 left in the game. San Bernardino came back, but Wolverine Keith Smith missed a jump shot with one second left and the game went to overtime.
After 13 lead changes and eight ties, Cheatum hit a jump shot at 2:12 for a 75-73 lead in the second overtime. ELAC never looked back.
Marcus Romain came off the bench for the Huskies to score the final seven points. He scored a team-high 24 points and had three steals. Cheatum finished with a double-double with 16 rebounds and 11 points. He added two block shots.
“We never doubted ourselves. Everybody stepped up for the win,” Cheatum said.