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Cougars move forward

College of the Canyons hoops picks up a much-needed conference victory

Posted: January 24, 2009 10:00 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons basketball player Terrez Scott ,center, and Justin Smith, right, defend Santa Monica City College's Daniel LeFlore Saturday night at College of the Canyons.

With both College of the Canyons and Santa Monica City College languishing near the cellar of the Western State Conference, something had to give at home on Saturday evening.

It was the last-place Corsairs.

The Cougars (9-14, 2-3) overcame a slow start to defeat SMCC 84-70 at College of the Canyons.

“We’re a work in progress,” said COC nine-year head coach Howard Fisher. “We still need to find a way to play with the same intensity the whole 40 minutes. We took a lead, but SMCC took our intensity away in the last half of the first half. Of course, 10 turnovers didn’t help.”

The basketball gods giveth and they taketh away.

COC grabbed an 11-point lead midway through the first half, but squandered it with poor shot selection, bad fouls and sloppy play. The suffocating trap defense of SMCC (7-15, 1-4) did not help matters, either, swarming around Canyons shooters almost to the point of harassment.

Led by Justin Smith with 10 points and eight rebounds, the Cougars jumped out to a 23-12 advantage, only to see the Corsairs’ Rocky Hudson set fire to the scoreboard with 17 points, including a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the three-point line as SMCC went on a 17-0 run to take a nine-point lead.

In fact, from the six minute mark to 2:20 of the first half, the only tallies the Cougars could muster were four points on free throws.

The home team stopped that futility streak, though, when freshman guard C.J. Atkins slammed the ball home to cut the deficit to 34-29.

A three by Hudson, however, helped the Corsairs walk away with a 38-31 halftime edge.

“Coach told us to remember what we were playing for,” Atkins said. “We came out a little slow in the first half, then bumped it up a little. We got the lead, but then let up a little. In the second, we came out with more fire and focused our energy into creating turnovers and putting pressure on them.”

In the second half, the Corsairs pushed their lead back up to nine, 44-35, as second-year guard Ryan Alvilez hit back-to-back threes. The Cougars then started kicking it up a notch and their transition game went into overdrive.

Atkins, Terrez Scott and Smith began delivering inside with regularity, while Smith continued to bang away from the perimeter.

But the second half glory belonged to sophomore guard Jason Holzworth, who collected 19 points in that duration as well as gave COC its first lead since 5:50 of the first with a three-pointer at 10:15 in the second.

His trey moments later gave his squad a 60-55 lead, an advantage they would not surrender this time.

“We were a little flat late in the first, but we came out of the locker room with the goal of creating an offense with our defense,” said Holzworth, who finished with 21 points, just three behind’s Smith’s game-high 24.

“People starting making better decisions, setting better screens and putting more pressure on them.”


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