BY ANDREW AYALA
East Los Angeles College men’s basketball continues its win streak into the elite eight after a nail-biting 68-65 victory over Allan Hancock College on Saturday at the men’s gym.
The eight teams left in the California Community College Athletic Association championship are: ELAC, Santa Rosa Junior College, Riverside City College, City College of San Francisco, College of the Sequoias, Santiago Canyon College, Los Angeles Valley College and Fresno City College.
The Huskies will face Santa Rosa Junior College at West Hills Lemoore College gym at 1 p.m. on Friday.
ELAC is ranked number two in the state.
If they win, the Huskies will advance to the semi-final on Saturday and have a chance at playing the championship on Sunday.
Both ELAC and Allan Hancock played with the intensity and aggression of raging bulls, only allowing the largest lead to be eight points.
The Huskies, however, managed to stay level-headed and struck like a synchronized pack of wolves on the hunt.
A dominant second half kept ELAC in the game and the crowd on its feet.
ELAC sophomore forward Joseph Hampton even came onto the hardwood with a fresh pair of shoes after halftime and said he changes them when he isn’t performing properly.
“We just had to come together. We had to put our hearts together. We work hard and no one works harder than us,” said Deshaun Highler, sophomore guard for ELAC.
“Times like this, there’s really no execution or no Xs and Os that you can draw up, and we were ready for that tonight,” Highler said.
The Huskies had 16 steals and 42 points in the paint.
Freshman guard/forward Keenan Allen led the team with 13 rebounds, 20 points and made some game-changing plays, including a monstrous dunk in the second half.
Sophomore guard Levelle Zeigler, freshman guard Kristopher Smith and Highler each had four steals. Zeigler and Highler also led the team in assists with four each.
The energy that the team brought was reciprocated by the crowd and could be heard throughout the gym as thunderous chants.
Highler said that if the team keeps the same energy and plays with their hearts, they can do anything.
He said that everyone was stepping up.He said getting dirty and gathering their grit allowed them to win this one.
ELAC was able to apply pressure when necessary and make smart plays that resulted in points.
Both teams had low shooting percentages with the Huskies making 47.2% of their field goals and 0% of their three-pointers.
As a result, ELAC had to dominate the paint and reevaluate its gameplan.
The team had a 51.3% free throw percentage and made 18 of their 35 attempts.
Hampton said the Huskies are making it to the free throw line and they need to take advantage and execute every opportunity they have for points.
“We had to pick up our pace. It was physical, they were trying to slow us down. They out rebounded us in the first half and we evened it up in the second half,” said John Mosley, ELAC’s head coach.
“Not a great execution and not great shooting. It was just a win and we played hard,” Mosley said.
The team understood that missing shots, free throws and rebounds impacted the game and caused it to be neck-and-neck. The Huskies’ 16 fastbreak points and 26 points off of turnovers proved that they can strike with the swiftness of a snake while under pressure.
Highler said the team will go through its regular routine to prepare for the next game, which consists of practice and watching film before their trip to West Hills L e m o o r e College.
“We kept our composure. We didn’t get too rattled or too sped up you know. We were in control of the game when it came down to i t , ” said Hampton.
“We didn’t g e t ou t of character or anything like t h a t … a n d that’s how we got out and took the win. If we stay within ourselves and within the game plan, I feel we can win the whole thing.”
ELAC next opponent Santa Rosa College was also in a nip-and-tuck game themselves as they only beat Columbia College by a total of four points on Saturday. The game between ELAC and Santa Rosa will be streaming live on www.cccaasports.org.