The Saddleback men's basketball team ran its winning streak to 12 games on Friday night with a 93-76 win at Santa Ana College. It was the second highest scoring total of the season as six different Gauchos scored in double-figures.
Saddleback fired out of the gate quickly, taking a 10-5 lead just 3.5 minutes into the game, but Santa Ana wasn't going to go away quietly. The Dons battled the Gauchos for the first 20 minutes, and despite only leading once in the half made things interesting as Saddleback entered the locker room with a narrow 48-45 lead. Santa Ana stayed in the game by making 4-of-8 from long range and 8-of-10 from the free throw line, playing neck-and-neck with the #1 rated team in the state.
T.J. Shorts picked up where he left off on Wednesday, scoring 11 points in the opening half by making all four shots from the field. The Gauchos, however, had trouble protecting the ball, turning it over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes as Santa Ana played with grit.
The second half started the same, as the Dons came out hot and took the lead in the opening two minutes when Noah Wellington drilled a three-pointer with 18:05 remaining to give Santa Ana its first lead in over 20 minutes. After the Gauchos responded, they again would take the lead with 13:39 remaining in the game when Wellington made a pair of free throws for the 54-52 lead, giving the Dons life and confidence for an upset.
For Santa Ana, however, the dream would quickly come crashing down. The Dons went scoreless over the next 4:33, going 0-for-9 from the field while committing three turnovers as Saddleback surged to a 68-54 lead. The Gauchos drove to the hole, scoring three straight layups, also drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. Saddleback would make four layups while shooting 10 free throws during the streak, taking the life out of the Dons.
Santa Ana would go another two minutes without scoring later in the half as the Gaucho lead grew to 77-59 with 6:40 remaining. Lyle Hexom (pictured) made two more layups while Maurice Jones made good from beyond the arc as Saddleback finally found its comfort zone.
In the end, Saddleback had too much offense for a Santa Ana squad that has won just four games all season. The Gauchos had six players finish in double-figures, with Shorts leading the way (17). Jones finished with 16, Hexom 15, Breaon Brady 14, Jalen Hall 12 and Devonte Klines 10 on a night where the Gauchos got to the free throw line 41 times.
The win gives Saddleback a 12-game winning streak and improves its record to 18-1 overall and 3-0 in Orange Empire Conference play. The Gauchos have a critical week next week when it hosts Irvine Valley on Wednesday and travels to Fullerton on Friday. Saddleback is tied for first on conference play with Fullerton while Irvine Valley is desperate for a win after a 0-3 start in conference play. Both games are scheduled to start at 5:00 PM.