Gauchos hold off Glendale (AZ) in opener

Gauchos hold off Glendale (AZ) in opener

The Saddleback men's basketball team opened the season with a 75-70 win over Glendale College of Arizona at the Frank Garcia Tip Off Tournament at College of the Desert on Thursday.  It was the third-ever meeting between the Gauchos and Gauchos. 

One way or another the Gauchos were going to win the opener as both squads have the same mascot.  Saddleback prevailed over Glendale (AZ) in the third meeting between the two schools to advance to the semifinals where they will meet San Bernardino Valley College on Friday at 5:00 PM.

Saddleback trailed early as they committed four turnovers in the first three minutes while Glendale took a 6-2 lead.  The Gauchos (SC) then got things turned around with a couple of layups from Isaiah Brooks to tie the game at 6-6.

Saddleback took its first lead of the game at the 13:21 mark of the opening half when Reggie Varner drained a three-pointer for a 13-10 lead.   Glendale quickly got things back on track as Saddleback went cold.  The team from Arizona held Saddleback to just eight points over the next nine minutes in grabbing a 28-21 lead. 

Saddleback then made a run towards the end of the half.  Anthony Naimie made a thunderous dunk with 3:48 remaining to spark the squad and cut the Glendale lead to 30-24.  Naimie would make another layup with 2:32 remaining to cut the lead to four.  He then made two free throws with 1:37 remaining as Saddleback cut the lead to 31-28.  Fifteen seconds later, Justin Faison made a steal and converted a dunk of his own as the Gauchos (SC) cut the lead to 31-30.  With 51 seconds remaining in the half, Saddleback got a stop in the defensive end and J.J. Overton got into the action with a layup and Saddleback had suddenly turned an 8-point deficit into a 32-31 advantage.  Saddleback would hold the advantage heading into the locker room when Naimie converted a three-point play for a 35-34 lead with 17 seconds remaining.

Glendale came out of the locker room with a purpose, scoring 11 of the first 16 points in taking a 45-39 lead.  At that point, the Saddleback defense took over.  The Gauchos (SC) held Glendale to one point over the next 3:17 while heating up and getting to the free throw line.  Overton, Jake Hawes and Shawn Stith all heated up, with Hawes burying a three-pointer to give Saddleback a 48-46 lead with 12:02 remaining. 

Following a Glendale make, Hawes again connected from downtown and Saddleback had its biggest lead of the game at 51-48.  The Gauchos (SC) would extend the lead when Overton nailed a three-pointer with 10:21 remaining for a 54-48 advantage.  Overton wasn't finished, answering a three-pointer from Glendale with a layup and a 56-51 lead with 9:43 remaining in regulation.

Saddleback extended the lead to seven when Stith completed a three-point play for a 59-52 lead with 8:54 left in the game.  Faison followed with a dunk at the 8:02 mark and Saddleback had its biggest lead of the game at 62-54 with just over eight minutes remaining.

Unfortunately for Saddleback, the offense would go silent over the next three minutes as Glendale scratched its way back into the game.  Trevan Newman made a jumper for Glendale with 5:35 remaining to cut the lead to 62-61. 

Saddleback made a run, stretching the lead back out to seven 68-61 when Stith made a layup for a 68-61 lead 3:32 left in the game.   Glendale answered again, scoring seven straight points as the Gauchos (SC) got sloppy with the ball.  Saddleback committed three turnovers and missed a pair of free throws as Glendale tied the game at 68-68. 

With the game tied at 70-70 with 1:23 remaining, Saddleback put the final nail in the coffin.  The Gauchos (SC) got a layup from Faison with 1:02 remaining to take the lead for good at 72-70.  Overton followed with a jumper at the 28-second mark to extend the lead to four.  Following a miss, Naimie made a free throw with eight seconds remaining for a final count of 75-70.

Overton finished with a game-high 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting.  The Gauchos (SC) dominated the game on the glass, outrebounding Glendale 43-19.  Faison led Saddleback with eight rebounds while Naimie finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Saddleback will play against at 5:00 PM tomorrow night against San Bernardino Valley College in the tournament semifinals.  The Wolverines were 73-59 winners over Compton College earlier in the day.