Gauchos march into Desert finals

Gauchos march into Desert finals

The Saddleback men's basketball team won its second game in as many days on Friday with an 83-78 win over San Bernardino Valley College in the College of the Desert Tournament semifinals.  Conor Clifford led the way with his second straight big game.

Clifford (pictured below) was a transfer from UC Irvine who showed up during the off-season at 300 pounds and needing to get into condition if he was going to be effective.  He proceeded to lose 30 pounds and already Gaucho fans are quickly becoming conditioned to the results.  Clifford followed up a big first night on Thursday with a 21-point, eight rebound performance on Friday as Saddleback defeated one of the better programs in Southern California in recent years, San Bernardino Valley.

Saddleback jumped out to an early lead and led by double-digits for most of the first 25 minutes of the game.  The Wolverines battled back, chipping away at the lead and finally tying the game with 12 minutes remaining at 45-45.  Saddleback quickly went to work, stopping the wave of emotion behind the shooting of Josh Mishler.   The freshman from Ocean View connected from long range for three and followed it up with a two-pointer on the next possession, giving the Gauchos a lead they would never relinquish.

"It was good to see them respond the way they did in a tight situation," head coach Andy Ground said.  "Tomorrow they will see how it feels to be in a championship game.  Hopefully they come ready to play."

In addition to Clifford and Mishler, Andrew Bournes had another big night, finishing with 16 points while Dusty Baker had 13 and Jalen Hall 12.

Saddleback entered the contest ranked No. 3 in Southern California in the Coach's Preseason Rankings while San Bernardino Valley (1-1) was No. 4. 

Saddleback (2-0) will face the winner of Long Beach City and College of the Desert in the tournament championship game tomorrow afternoon.  Tipoff is set for 4:00 PM.