The Saddleback men's basketball team defeated inter-district rival Irvine Valley College, 44-34, on Friday night at the Saddleback Gymnasium. The Gauchos and Lasers battled through a cold-shooting night with Saddleback prevailing for its 11th straight win.
If you were looking for smooth basketball and hot shooting you would have been disappointed on Friday night. Both teams were good on defense, but the offenses made them look downright great as neither club managed to find a rhythm the entire night. How bad was it? The usually reliable T.J. Shorts, who shot 80% from the free throw line a year ago for Saddleback was just 4-of-9 from the charity stripe, and that included making his final two after starting 2-of-7. Sharpshooter Jake Hawes, who entered shooting 49% from three-point range for the year, made just 1-of-5. The teams combined to shoot only 33% from the field and 42% from the free throw line while the crowd kept waiting for someone to get hot.
Saddleback had nine points with under four minutes remaining in the opening half after going seven minutes without scoring a point. Colin Ferrier finally broke the ice with a three-pointer at the 3:30 mark to cut the Irvine Valley lead to 14-12. The Gauchos would close out the half down 16-14.
Saddleback came out of the half with a three-pointer from Nick Crankshaw to give the Gauchos their first lead of the game. Breaon Brady put them ahead for good at the 16:38 mark when he laid in a ball off a pass from Ferrier for a 22-20 lead. The lead grew to seven on the next possession when Shorts connected from long range, which was part of a 13-4 run to start the half.
Irvine Valley had a chance to get back in the game when Brady was called for his fourth foul and followed it up with a technical, giving IVC four chances from the free throw line with 3:51 remaining and the Gauchos leading 37-30. Lance Coleman and Mike Turner made just 1-of-4 for the Lasers, a sign of things to come. Ferrier would follow with a three-pointer as the lead quickly grew to nine for Saddleback, turning back any thoughts of a late comeback by IVC.
Shorts finished with a game-high 15 points, but his frustration was obvious in the second half. On two straight possessions his shoes gave out from underneath him when driving to the basket…getting whistled for back-to-back traveling calls. He finally made up for it in the final minute when he drained two free throws for the final dagger.
Saddleback improved to 16-2 overall and 2-0 in Orange Empire Conference play with the win. The Gauchos will have a week off before hosting Riverside City College next Friday. Tip time is scheduled for 7:00 PM.