Huskies loses a squeaker to No. 3-ranked Chaffey College

Husky Aaron Cheatum scores on a shot in the paint to pull the Huskies within two, 9-7, at 16:01 the first half in a 77-73 loss to Chaffey College.
COMING IN FOR A LANDING—Husky Aaron Cheatum scores on a shot in the paint to pull the Huskies within two, 9-7, at 16:01 the first half in a 77-73 loss to Chaffey College. C/N TADZIO GARCIA

By Tadzio Garcia

East Los Angeles College men’s basketball team lost to the state’s No. 3-ranked Chaffey College, 77-73, in the championship game of the 42nd Annual Riverside Holiday Basketball Tournament. The loss came after beating two ranked teams.

As a result, ELAC, 8-3 overall, moved up 10 spots in the state poll and is ranked No. 6.

The Huskies beat No. 8-ranked San Bernardino Valley College (13-3) 82-76 in double overtime, to advance to the title game.

The Huskies stunned then No. 7-ranked Mt. San Jacinto College (6-3) 68-66 in the first round.

“We didn’t expect to lose to Chaffey even though we consider ourselves the underdog in every game. We move on from here. We are a family that keeps fighting and never gives up,” Husky Denzel Council said.

The 16-team Riverside City College tournament is one of the toughest in the state.

Entering the tournament were six ranked teams in the state poll, two others ranked in the Southern Regional poll and one other ranked in the Northern Regional poll.

“Riverside (Holiday Tournament) is a great tournament to play basketball in, with some of the best teams in the state playing. Chaffey is a real good team, but we are disappointed we lost to them. This tournament gave our young team a picture of the playoffs,” ELAC second-year Head Coach John Mosley said.

Mosley coached the Huskies to the Sweet 16, third round of playoffs, last season.

Chaffey (13-2), last year’s state runner-up, built four double-digit leads in the second half after a see-saw first half battle. The scrappy Huskies (8-3) bounced back each time.

Chaffey built its largest lead, 56-43, with 9:46 minutes remaining in the game.

A Zack Hinton free-throw about three minutes later pulled the Huskies to within three, 58-55, to the delight of the Husky faithful.

The Panthers then built a 70-61 lead off of an Adom Jacko dunk with 3:46 left.

Never count the Huskies out as they stormed back outscoring Chaffey 12-5 points to pull within two, 75-73. Chaffey held on for the four point win.

The vocal ELAC bench drowned out the large Chaffey contingent in the first half. You have to love community college basketball.

The All-Tournament team athletes from both colleges included Huskies Marcus Romain and Aaron Cheatum as well as Chaffey’s Julian Nichols.

“The award is bittersweet because we are disappointed that we lost to Chaffey,” Romain said.

Jacko was awarded the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. He scored 73 total tournament points, pulled down 40 rebounds and added three assists and three blocked shots.

Nichols’s tournament totals were 43 points, 17 rebounds, 20 assists and 16 steals.

Romain came off the bench for the Huskies with an impressive 66 total points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and two block shots.

Cheatum scored 52 tournament points for ELAC with a total of 35 rebounds, four assists, three steals and five blocked shots.

Also impressive for the Huskies, Zach Hinton’s tournament totals of 53 points, 36 rebounds, three assists, seven steals and three blocked shots.

In other tournament action, San Bernardino bested Riverside (4-8) and their home crowd, 73-67, in the third place game.

No. 9 Saddleback College (12-1), No. 1-ranked when the tournament began, toppled Los Angeles Trade Tech College (8-4) 66-39 in the consolation championship.

No. 11 Antelope Valley College (13-3) edged El Camino College Compton Center (4-7) 76-69 in the fifth place game.

The Huskies open 2013 Holiday Inn Tournament play against Cypress College (3-8) at San Diego Mesa College on Dec. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

The Huskies have a chance to play two ranked teams from the Southern California Regional Poll in the tournament.

They would meet No. 12-ranked Victor Valley College in the semifinals if both teams win opening-round games.

ELAC could meet No. 15-ranked Glendale College in the title game.

The tournament will be ELAC’s final games before South Coast Conference play begins next year.

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