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College men's basketball: Cougars toughen up

Defense leads to third straight win

Posted: January 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons’ forward Rafael Love, center, works his way through West L.A. defenders Alex Huerta, left, and Anthony Cannon at COC on Saturday. COC won 64-55.

College of the Canyons men's basketball didn't want a letdown after defeating the state's No. 6-ranked Citrus on Wednesday.

Against another team which held a size advantage, the Cougars gutted out a 64-55 victory over West Los Angeles College on Saturday at COC.

West LA was held 20 points below its season scoring average, and even more below the 91 points it scored on COC last time out.

COC lost that game 91-67 on Jan. 5 in the Western State Conference opener.

It was a far different story on Saturday though, and there's no magic formula for why the suddenly contending Cougars have won three straight and four of their last five.

"We were very young when the season started," said COC head coach Howard Fisher. "We were very inexperienced, but I think the guys have bought into the philosophies that we're trying to teach them."

Against the Wildcats (8-11, 3-4), that philosophy was just playing defense and fighting for rebounds.

Despite facing a front court that featured a 6-foot-8 forward and a 6-foot-9 center, COC (13-10, 5-2) outrebounded West LA 45-41, and especially did so in the final minutes when it meant the most.

"It's heart, it's all heart," said Cougar forward Wesley Bartole. "Parker (Dominguez) and I have the front court. I have Parker's back and he has mine. We know that if one guy doesn't get the rebound, the other will."

Bartole and fellow forward Dominguez each led the Cougars with 14 points, while Dominguez also added 12 boards.

West LA took a 27-20 first-half lead, but watched it disappear to a 9-2 COC run to close the period.

With an even 29-29 score at halftime, the Cougars came out aggressive and streaked to a 38-29 lead in the first four minutes.

From there, they nursed a single-digit lead the entire second half, but weren't able to pull away.

At the 4:50 mark, the Wildcats closed it to 54-53 with possession, but didn't inch any closer.

In the last five minutes, the Wildcats frequently went one-and-done on their offensive tries, and the Cougars made enough shots to gain the upper hand.

"They tried harder for those rebounds tonight, and that's the difference in the game," said West LA head coach Ron McClurkin, who's team played with just a seven-man roster.

Of the seven, most of the scoring was done by guard DeAndre Davis, who poured in 23 points.

Other than him, the Wildcats didn't have much success from the field, shooting 32 percent.

Though the Cougars weren't much better, at 33 percent, it was toughness down the stretch that made the difference.

And it's what has made a difference in COC's last three games, which has put it in a tie for first place in the WSC South Division.

"We know we're not there yet," Bartole said. "In the WSC, it can go either way. You can go on these big runs of four, five games in a row, and then you can lose five in a row."



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