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College men's basketball: Cougs fall in WSC final

COC trails nearly entire game against Citrus

Posted: February 22, 2013 10:50 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2013 10:50 p.m.

College of the Canyons guard Jaylen Bland shoots over Citrus College defender Jevioin Roland on Friday night at COC.

Citrus College sophomore Stevie Thornton has made plenty of big shots in the Santa Clarita Valley over the years.

But the Golden Valley High graduate isn’t used to playing the role of villain.

Thornton scored a game-high 27 points and made a game-clinching 3-pointer with 27 seconds left on Friday night to help the Citrus Owls beat the College of the Canyons Cougars 77-71 in the Western State Conference, South Division Tournament final at COC.

“It’s really fun,” Thornton said of playing in the SCV, where he once helped Golden Valley win a Foothill League title in 2009. “I know everybody on COC. It’s like going to the park and playing with my buddies.”

Despite the loss, the Cougars (20-8 overall, 10-2 in the WSC South) still finish the regular season with their first conference title and first 20-win season since 2006-07.

Ranked No. 9 in this week’s state community college men’s basketball poll, COC will advance to next week’s Southern California Regional playoffs.

It will learn its seed in the 20-team bracket on Monday.

Though Friday’s game didn’t affect the Cougars’ position in the conference standings, a win could have boosted their resume going into the postseason.

“Overall, it affected our record. We wanted to win to get to 21-7,” said COC forward Tyler Barber, who had nine points. “It’s tough to beat a team three times.”

Though the Cougars beat Citrus (15-10, 8-4) two other times this season, they trailed nearly the entire game on Friday.

COC’s last lead was 9-7 early in the first half.

From there, the Owls used their transition game and capitalized on 13 first-half COC turnovers to maintain the upper hand.

The Cougars kept it close by sinking seven 3-pointers by halftime, when they trailed 37-35.

Jaylen Bland scored 17 points to lead COC and Ron Harris had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

But COC didn’t make a single shot from beyond the arc in the second half, nor did it contain Citrus inside.

“In the second half, we didn’t execute enough at either end of the floor,” said COC head coach Howard Fisher. “We allowed too many drives to the basket and too many fouls at the basket.”

Harris’ jumper with 1:49 left cut Citrus’ lead to 73-71, giving COC a last gasp.

After using more than a minute of clock on the ensuing possession, Citrus sealed it when Thornton knocked down a three with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.

That made it a 76-71 Owls lead, which proved to be enough to hang on.


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