The Saddleback men's basketball team picked up some awards this weekend when the All-Orange Empire Conference Teams were decided by the conference coaches. Shawn Stith, J.J. Overton and coach Andy Ground head the list of six Gauchos being recognized.
Saddleback had a tough set of circumstances to overcome this season. The Gauchos were faced with post-season suspension heading into the season, which would ordinarily be too big of an obstacle to overcome. Saddleback, however, is no ordinary program. The Gauchos used the circumstances as a rallying cry, capturing the Orange Empire Conference title this past Friday with a win over Fullerton College on the final night of the season. Saddleback finished the season 10-2 in Orange Empire Conference play, ranked No. 15 in the CCCMBCA State Rankings and No. 13 in the Massey Ratings.
Saddleback was appropriately recognized in the post-season meeting, getting five players and a coach some much-deserved press. Shawn Stith took home the ultimate honor when he was named co-Orange Empire Conference MVP. Head coach Andy Ground was recognized as co-Coach-of-the-Year while J.J. Overton was named All-OEC First Team. Joining those three were Arash Poorsina , Sean Birk and Captain Whitlock, who were recognized with All-Orange Empire Conference Second Team status.
Stith was a dominating force inside for Saddleback, averaging 15.9 points and 7.0 rebounds-per-game while shooting 61.4% from the field and 77.7% from the free throw line. He scored in double-figures in nine out of the last 10 games of the season and had a season-high 28 points against Santa Monica College on December 15. Stith finished his career at Saddleback with 797 points and 365 rebounds.
Overton averaged 14.8 and 6.3 rebounds-per-game, playing in 23 contests during the course of the season. In addition, he was second on the team in both assists and steals-per-game. Overton had a season-high of 29 points against Glendale College on December 29 when he went 11-for-16 from the field. He finished his career at Saddleback with 679 points, 231 rebounds, 126 assists and 58 steals.
Poorsina was a great compliment to Stith throughout the season, doing most of the dirty work inside to free up space for Stith. He had a season-high of 15 points on two occasions while leading the team with 15 blocks for the year. Poorsina scored 268 points with 149 rebounds and 49 blocks in two seasons for the Gauchos.
Birk started all 28 games for Saddleback in 2018-19 after transferring in from Palomar College. The sophomore averaged 7.0 points and 2.0 assists-per-game while shooting 36.7% from three-point range. Birk had a season-high of 17 points against Santiago Canyon on January 18 when he made 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He finished his lone season at Saddleback with 195 points and 57 assists, finishing third on the team with 23 steals.
Whitlock guided the offense in 2018-19, averaging 10.3 points-per-game in conference play while leading the team in both assists (98) and steals (38) for the year. He had a season-high of 18 points against Riverside on February 20 and averaged 12.2 points-per-game in the final six games of the season. The freshman finished the season with 202 points while shooting 39.2% from three-point range.
Coach Ground won his seventh Orange Empire Conference title in 11 seasons at the helm. In his 11 years as the head coach, Ground has won 19-or-more games, 10 times. He has led the Gauchos to the CCCAA Final Four on five occasions, winning state championships in both 2010 and 2015.