By Hector Gomez
Men’s basketball advanced to the elite eight playoffs in the state after an 83-80 road win Saturday against number-two ranked El Camino College Compton Center.
East Los Angeles College continued its great play in a thriller back and forth as it earned its trip to state. With a packed audience on the road, ELAC managed to thrive in a tough atmosphere and turn the game around in the second half to come out on top.
Huskies forward Roderick Williams lead the way for ELAC with 25 points and eight rebounds. Williams had an efficient shooting night as he made 10 of 12 shots. “It was a big win and we just have to keep going and trust our coaches.
All the hard work we put in daily, it just works. We’re just doing what we have to do and it’s just paying off,” Williams said. ELAC executed outstanding defense, extending its lead with points off of turnovers.
After having only four points off of turnovers in the first half, ELAC finished with a total of 20 points off of turnovers. With two and a half minutes to go in the game, Compton cut the Huskies lead with a 6-0 run.
As the Huskies maintained a small lead, Compton fouled ELAC in the last few possessions forcing them to make their free throws. With the Huskies up by one and seven seconds left in the game, freshman guard Frank Bertz was at the free throw line.
He converted on both free throws and extended the lead, 83-80. Compton had one more opportunity to tie the game, up but they needed a 3-pointer to send it to overtime. ELAC made a terrific stop on defense as they forced Compton to shoot a well contested 3-pointer that missed far left. Down by nine at the 12-minute mark of the first half, ELAC struggled on the glass as they gave up many offensive rebounds that lead to second chance points for Compton.
Following a Husky’s timeout at the eight-minute mark, Bertz had an incredible block which lead to a fast break three pointer by sophomore guard Sequan Walker. Bertz finished with 18 points, four rebounds and four assists.
ELAC settled down on defense toward the final six minutes of the first half and cut Compton’s lead to 38-36. Walker contributed with eight points after the first half. Huskies came out of halftime with adjustments and aggressive defensively. After back-to-back steals in the first two minutes of the second half, ELAC pushed the pace and attacked the paint.
It took the lead in the game, 44-40 as momentum began to shift on its side. Bertz continued his terrific defense with another sensational block. The Huskies did not allow anything easy throughout the first ten minutes of the second half.
They forced turnover after turnover and came up with consistent stops. ELAC took advantage after every steal and pushed back to get many fast break baskets. Within a three-minute span, the Huskies caused four turnovers in a row which lead to four fast break dunks as they went on an 8-0 run.
During the run, Husky forward Zeno Lake caught an alley-oop dunk with 11 minutes left to extend ELAC’s lead by eight. Lake finished with five points and nine rebounds. Two plays later, after another forced turnover, ELAC had the advantage on a three on one fast break when Williams posterized a Compton player with a ridiculous one hand dunk over him.
The crowd went insane and yelled, jumping up and down reacting to the terrific play. Williams screamed with a roar of in excitement as ELAC went up by 10, 62-52. Even Compton fans were amazed after witnessing that dunk. “It felt lovely,” Williams said with a huge grin when asked about that play. After the buzzer, the Huskies cheered together in excitement after their terrific win.
Williams fell to the ground and began to shed tears of joy. Also a few of players grabbed water bottles and soaked coach Mosely to congratulate him on the win. “It’s amazing man, we finally get to go up state and compete for a championship,” Walker said.
Huskies will look to continue their winning season in the elite eight state playoffs as they go against Feather River College on March 9 at 3 p.m. Feather River currently is on a 13-game win streak.
The last time it faced defeat was Dec. 17 against Canada College. It also holds one of the best offenses in the state, ranking third in points per game. This is the furthest ELAC has gone in the playoffs since 2015, when the Huskies made the state final and lost to Saddleback College.