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Colllege basketball: Upping the ante

Cougars win first playoff game since 2007 season

Posted: March 2, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2013 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons guard Jaylen Bland (5) makes a shot in the first half against the Allan Hancock Bulldogs at College of the Canyons in the second round of the Southern California Regional playoffs on Friday.

It wasn’t the win itself, it was the reaction that said it all.

This year’s College of the Canyons men’s basketball team is accomplishing more than it has in recent years, and it’s because the players compete for each other.

COC players flew off the bench to congratulate their teammates after a come-from-behind 71-68 win over Allan Hancock College on Friday in the second round of the Southern California Regional Playoff at COC.

COC, which earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, won its first postseason game since 2007.

“It’s our heart,” said COC forward Ron Harris. “This team is built on heart. We’re really close, like a family.”

Harris led all players in the game with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in addition to eight rebounds.

He helped lead a gritty comeback by the Cougars (21-8), who are the No. 6 seed in the Southern California bracket.

A pair of clutch free throws by Jaylen Bland put COC in control 71-67 with 25 seconds to play, but AHC was given a last gasp when Demetrius Thomas was fouled shooting a 3-pointer.

He made just 1-of-3 from the foul line, allowing the Cougars to secure the rebound and dribble it out for the win.

That rebound was the final one of many big hustle plays the Cougars made down the stretch.

“The last three or four possessions we did a heck of a job just blocking out,” said COC head coach Howard Fisher.

But early on, the 11th-seeded Bulldogs (20-9) controlled the glass and the game.

The Bulldogs led 34-21 with 4:16 to play in the first half.

That lead was diminished to 40-33 by halftime.

At that point, COC was starting to find its flow, fighting for every rebound and contesting every shot on defense.

“In the first half, they had a lot of fast-break points,” Harris said of AHC. “And our transition defense wasn’t that good. That was something we had to improve.”

AHC center Josh Varney led his team with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Three other Bulldogs players scored in double figures, including 12 points from Khufu Najee.

A 15-2 scoring run early in the second half helped COC take over a 57-52 lead. The Cougars never allowed the Bulldogs to catch up after that.

“Some people gave up and people weren’t crashing the boards like they were in the first half,” Thomas said of AHC’s late struggles.

Most of AHC’s starting lineup stayed in for the majority of the game, while COC constantly rotated bench players in, especially after starting point guard Terrez Scott went down early in the game with an ankle injury.

The contributions from the bench proved to be key.

COC’s third-round matchup will come against the winner of today’s game between No. 3 seed Mt. San Antonio College and No. 14 seed Antelope Valley College at Mt. SAC.

The third-round game will be played on Wednesday at the location of the higher seeded team.


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