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College basketball: A little Love late

Cougars get the key shots from sophomore forward

Posted: January 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons forward Rafael Love (4) attempts a shot against Santa Monica College’s Travis Damuth at College of the Canyons on Wednesday.

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At first it looked like a runaway victory for College of the Canyons’ men’s basketball.

Then it turned into a nail-biter.

And then it was a memorable finish.

With the score tied and 13 seconds on the clock, the Cougars’ Rafael Love hit a 3-pointer from the corner and hit two free throws in the waning seconds to give COC an 82-77 victory over Santa Monica College on Wednesday night at College of the Canyons.

The victory ends a three-game losing streak for the Cougars, who hadn’t won since defeating L.A. Valley College 83-68 on Jan. 4.

“It was a little too soon” said COC head coach Howard Fisher of Love shooting with 13 seconds still on the clock.

Love took a similar shot in a 55-50 overtime loss to Bakersfield on Jan. 11.

In that game, Love gave his team the lead, but the Cougars (11-9, 2-3) fouled Bakersfield and the ensuing free throws sent the game to overtime — where the Cougars eventually fell.

“I was just thinking deja vu,” Howard said.

But fortunately for the Cougars, Love never wavered.

Was he worried about missing the shot with time still on the clock?

“Not at all,” Love said. “I did the same thing in Bakersfield.”

While getting back in the win column is certainly a positive for the Cougars, for most of the game it looked like Canyons had the game under control.

Canyons moved the ball around and consistently found the open shooter as it jumped out to a quick 22-11 lead halfway through the first half.

That lead swelled to as many as 18 points after an 18-3 Canyons’ run in the first half.

But Santa Monica (11-8, 2-2) responded and closed out the half on a 13-3 run to trail 41-33 at the break.

“We played Santa Monica basketball,” said Corsairs head coach Jerome Jenkins. “We fight all the time.”

That fight continued down the stretch, as Santa Monica forced Canyons into 22 turnovers and chipped away at the lead.

With 6:23 remaining in the game, the Corsairs’ Lee Lark gave his team its first lead of the ball game at 64-63.

Lark was fouled on a mid-range jump shot, but was able to knock down the shot when the ball hit the front of the rim and roll in.

“There was about a four-minute stretch where we turned the ball over and didn’t execute offensively,” Fisher said.

But COC responded.

After zero lead changes to that point, the two teams exchanged the lead four times in the final 6:23, culminating in Love’s 3-pointer.

Santa Monica had one more opportunity with nine seconds left, but the Cougars knocked the ball out of Travis Damuth’s hands and the ball bounced off his knee and out of bounds.

Love led the Cougars with 27 points and seven rebounds. Ronald Harris scored 14 points, Wesley Bartole scored 13 points and Jawhar Purdy added 12 points.

For the Corsairs, Johnell Young led with 17 points, Travis Damuth scored 16 points and Anthony Harris added 11 points.

With its three-game losing streak over, the Cougars will try to put together a winning streak when they travel to Glendale College on Saturday.

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