By Andrew Ruiz
For the first time in school history, the men’s basketball team is one of four teams remaining in the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs are looking to bring a state championship to Monterey Park, California.
After a 92-73 win against Long Beach City College in the fourth round of the CCCAA Southern Regional playoffs on March 7, the Huskies will face Merritt College of the Northern Regional in the State Championships Friday March 13 at 5 p.m. at Cerritos College.
The Jan. 23 matchup between ELAC and Long Beach ended in the Vikings’ favor as sophomore guard Brandon Stanton scored the game-winning layup with 1.8 seconds to go. Huskies sophomore guard Marcus Romain took responsibility for the loss after missing three crucial free throws and a shot at the buzzer to force overtime. But on Friday, Romain had another shot at the Vikings and get his revenge.
“I took it hard actually being that (Brandon Stanton) hit the layup on me when I was defending him,” Romain, who finished the game with 20 points, said. “(The game) did mean a lot to me and it feels good that we closed it out the way we did.”
ELAC sophomore guard Je’Ron Primus also had 20 points and freshman forward Marquis Salmon finished with 19.
Bench play was also stellar for the Huskies as they outscored Long Beach, 25-6. The Huskies also dominated on the boards (45-34), points in the paint (30-22) and second-chance points (17-13).
“I’m very proud (of the way the team performed),” Huskies Head Coach John Mosley said. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity throughout the year with missing guys, injuries and all that. The guys have been playing well at the right time. No quit in them when we prepare. I’m excited and happy for them.”
Despite jumping out to an early 11-2 start, the Vikings lost momentum and the lead in the second half after going scoreless for four minutes as the Huskies went on a 7-0 run.
“(We) couldn’t score,” Vikings Head Coach Barry Barnes said. “You have to be able to score against this team. This team put up big numbers the first two playoff games. We couldn’t guard them, they scored and we couldn’t score. It’s about that, so the object of the game is so simple: you have to defend someone and you got to get stops and we didn’t do any of them well.”
Stanton (29 points, 10 rebounds), sophomore guard Elijah Gaines (12 points) and freshman guard Michael Shivers (13 points) were the only Vikings who finished in double digits. Freshman guard Chris Spencer struggled throughout the game as he shot four of 11 from the field. He scored eight of his nine points in the first half.
According to Romain, the focus is to continue to take it one game at a time during the Huskies’ quest for a state championship.
“(It) feels good to be the first team in school history to make some accomplishments,” he said. “We want to stay humble and continue to move forward.”