The Saddleback men's basketball team opened the Orange Empire Conference schedule with a 63-59 win at Orange Coast College on Wednesday night in Costa Mesa. The Gauchos have now won 10 straight.
Saddleback led wire-to-wire on Wednesday but had to hang on to win against an Orange Coast squad that was smelling upset. The Gauchos scored the first five points of the game and led 7-1 with 17:19 remaining in the opening half as T.J. Shorts and Colin Ferrier led the early charge. The lead grew to as much as 11 in the opening half when Chance Kalaugher made a jumper with 3:14 remaining for a 27-16 lead.
Orange Coast closed the gap to five at halftime but Saddleback made another run to start the final 20 minutes. The Gauchos scored the first five points for a second straight half and led 34-24 with 18:35 remaining. That's when the momentum changed. The Gauchos were whistled for seven fouls in a two-minute span, including a technical foul on Shorts, which sent him to the bench.
Orange Coast capitalized, closing the gap to 38-35 with 11:24 remaining. Breaon Brady answered with three straight free throws as the lead grew back to six, but then was called for a foul which sent him to the bench alongside Shorts.
With momentum growing and the home town crowd thinking upset, Saddleback went back to the bench with Kalaugher and Jake Hawes, who started to show the depth of the lineup. Kalaugher scored five points over the next four minutes before Hawes took over from long range. The freshman from St. George, Utah, drained back-to-back three-pointers as the lead grew back to 58-51 with just 3:20 remaining on the clock. Orange Coast would get back to within three with 1:14 remaining, but Ferrier answered with a layup at the other end in the closing minute as the Pirate charge was thwarted.
Saddleback finished with four players in double-figures, led by Shorts (12). Joining him in double-digits was Ferrier (11), Faison (11) and Kalaugher (10). The Gauchos struggled from the free throw line throughout, making just 17-of-35 for the night.
Saddleback is now 15-2 overall and 1-0 in Orange Empire Conference play after the win. The Gauchos will play Irvine Valley College in the conference home-opener on Friday night. Tip time is scheduled for 7:00 PM.