The Saddleback men's basketball team advanced to the state tournament on Saturday night with a 53-32 win over San Bernardino Valley College at the Saddleback Gymnasium. It was the third win over the Wolverines this season and advances the Gauchos to the Final Four at Cerritos College next Friday.
Saddleback came out with a purpose…stop the Wolverines. The Gauchos did just that, stifling a potent Wolverine attack by taking away easy baskets and forcing them into bad shots. San Bernardino Valley came out and cold and never warmed up, shooting 23% for the game.
"After a poor performance defensively in our last game, the guys really played hard tonight," coach Andy Ground said.
The opening possession of the game was a forecast for the final 39 minutes as San Bernardino won the tip and held on to the ball for a minute. The Wolverines took four shots on the possession with three offensive rebounds but couldn't find the bottom of the net.
The Gauchos finally found their range and never looked back. Saddleback took a 28-14 lead into the locker rooms on the strength of 10 points from Dusty Baker and 9-for-11 shooting from the free throw line. Baker was even hotter in the second half, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and finishing with a game-high 21 points.
San Bernardino Valley made their only run of the game early in the second half, scoring eight straight points to cut the lead to 33-24 with 15:17 remaining. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, the Gauchos would score the next 12 points and the lead grew to 21. Baker scored the first five with Andrew Bournes scoring the last three on a long three-pointer while San Bernardino Valley went 9:10 without scoring a point. Inbetween, Collin Host frustrated the Wolverines with an easy transition bucket while locking down on the leading scorer for San Bernardino Valley. It was the second drought of the night for San Bernardino Valley, who went 8:04 without scoring in the first half in a 16-0 run by the Gauchos.
Playing for the fourth time this season, Saddleback's defense seemed to know every play San Bernardino was going to run and down the stretch the defense intensified as the Gauchos were smelling blood in the water. The Wolverines couldn't buy a basket; eventually providing a smirk from head coach Quincy Brewer who saw his season going down the tubes with no hopes for a turnaround.
Saddleback controlled the boards in the second half, outrebounding San Bernardino 24-9 in the final 20 minutes. The only points the Wolverines could manage was a handful of baskets by MVP Charles Callison, who finished with a team-high 16 points.
The win advances Saddleback to the California Community College Athletic Association State Tournament at Cerritos College next Friday where they will play Canada College in the state semifinals. The game time will be announced on Sunday by the CCCAA.