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College basketball: COC makes overtime count

Cougars overcome series of obstacles

Posted: December 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 29, 2011 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons guard Brad Wyche puts up a shot against Palomar during the second round of the Cougar Holiday Classic on Wednesday at COC.

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The College of the Canyons men’s basketball team had already climbed back from a series of holes to force overtime against Palomar College in the semifinals of the Cougar Holiday Classic on Wednesday night at College of the Canyons.

They were: a double-digit deficit, a poor first-half shooting performance and two scoring droughts of over four minutes
In the extra period, though, it looked like the night had belonged to the Cougars all along.

Rafael Love scored six points in the extra frame to add to his team-high 23-point, eight-rebound performance to lead COC to a 71-62 victory over the Comets.

“I think we started moving the ball a little better (in the extra period),” said COC head coach Howard Fisher. “Our bodies were moving places.”

Ronald Harris chipped in with 14 points and Wesley Bartole scored 10 points while both notched seven rebounds for the Cougars, who held Palomar to just two points in overtime on 14.7 percent shooting.

The Cougars, who took their first lead of the contest at 56-55 with 4:30 remaining after Brad Wyche hit a go-ahead 3-pointer, shot 48.1 percent in the second half and 57.1 percent in the overtime period.

Those performances were a substantial improvement over their 30.3 percent first-half performance, a percentage that was just above 20 before the Cougars closed out the final two minutes of the first half with six unanswered points to trail 28-22 at the break.

COC came out strong in the second half, scoring the first six points of the half to tie the score at 28-28.

“We had to get our confidence ...,” Fisher said. “And those points got our confidence back.”

Despite blowing its early lead, the Comets opened up another large advantage at 48-40 with 9:01 to play — largely due to the play of Chris Gorman, who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 25 points.

Seven-foot, one-inch center Joe Vaz scored 12 points for the Comets and was a force inside in limited minutes during the first half. But he appeared to tire in the second half as the Cougars continued to attack him offensively.

The freshman scored two points in the second half and posted two rebounds, despite a definitive height advantage over the Cougars.

After Palomar lost the lead for the first time, the Comets fought back to take a 60-58 lead with 1:35 remaining and got the ball back on offense before a turnover led to two free throws by Wyche to tie the score at 60.

“We just got a little impatient,” said Palomar head coach John O’Neill. “Guys were trying to take quick shots and (COC) did a great job of being patient. We just ran out of gas.”

The Cougars made plenty of mistakes of their own down the stretch, though, as COC committed a turnover on four of its last seven possessions before heading to overtime.

“We were fortunate that our defense was clicking,” Fisher said.

In the extra period, the Comets scored first on a basket by Jamal Jones, before COC rattled off the final 11 points of the game for the victory.

Now, COC advances to the championship game of the tournament against Antelope Valley College tonight at 5 p.m. at COC. Canyons will be looking for its first tournament championship since it defeated Antelope Valley in 1997.

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