M. Basketball: Win sends Falcons to Final Eight

Jonathan Guzman had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Falcons
Jonathan Guzman had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Falcons

For the first time since the 2001-02 season, the Cerritos College men's basketball team will be playing in the CCCAA State Tournament. The Falcons (26-5), seeded #5 in Southern California, defeated #13-seeded Santiago Canyon College (21-10), 95-75 on Saturday night. The team will be seeded #2 from Southern California for the Final Eight, which will take place at Ventura College. they will face the #3-seeded team from Northern California, Yuba College in the quarterfinals. The State Tournament will run from Friday through Sunday.

Trailing, 67-65 with 8:08 remaining after the Hawks Shaun Maeder hit a three-pointer, Cerritos responded by going on a 30-8 run the remainder of the game to post the 20-point win. Santiago Canyon had just battled back from a 65-59 deficit and went on an 8-0 run to take their final lead of the game. After being limited to just two first-half points, sophomore Demetrius Thomas (Bassick, CT HS/Porterville College) came to life and scored 11 of his 19 points in the final seven minutes of the game. One of the keys to the turnaround was the team's offensive rebounding, with 10 of the 13 boards on the offensive end coming in the second half.

"Santiago Canyon played a zone defense most of the night and Demetrius was able to find holes in their zone in the second half," said head coach Russ May. "We have some pretty good passers on the team and they were able to find Demetrius, as well as others."

Using a combination of outside shooting, along with driving to the basket, Santiago Canyon led several times during the game, with Rodney Henderson (32 points) and Antoine Jenkins (22 points) utilizing both. The Falcons looked inside to both sophomores Jason Carter (View Park HS/Santa Monica College) and Jonathan Guzman (Paramount HS), and they were a combined 14-of-16 from the field for 32 points and each added 10 rebounds.

Once the Santiago Canyon shots stopped dropping (2-for-14 in the final 8:08), Cerritos took advantage of their fast break abilities, along with the successful inside game to pull away for the win. Driving to the basket, sophomore Keshaun Mack (Long Beach Jordan HS/Antelope Valley College) led the team with 22 points and six assists, while Thomas came to life in the latter part of the game and added seven rebounds to his 19 bench points. By contrast, Cerritos was a blazing 14-for-18 (78% from the field) to close out the game, which included multiple second-chance baskets. Mack, who was assigned most of the game to guard Henderson, picked up his defensive game and was one of the keys to the turnaround for the Falcons. He contested every shot by Henderson, which explained the cold shooting in the final eight minutes of the game, with Henderson going scoreless the final five minutes of the contest.

"I think we wore them down in the second half and were more aggressive," added May. "We started to attack the rim more, which led to higher percentage shots. Defensively, we knew their two main guys (Henderson and Jenkins) were going to score their points. We just wanted to make them earn it." The defense held them to 18-of-49 combined shooting, including 7-for-21 from three-point range.

The Falcon defense, which worked hard to try and stop both Henderson and Jenkins, created their fast break chances with seven blocked shots. Carter finished a play with an offensive rebound and layup that was generated by a Thomas blocked shot, while on their next possession, freshman guard Christian Alvis (Whittier Christian HS) hit a three-pointer for an 83-70 lead with 3:27 that came after an offensive rebound. For their third possession in a row, an offensive rebound led to a layup, with Mack grabbing the missed shot and scoring. That led to the momentum swing that would allow Cerritos to advance to the Elite Eight.

On the night, Mack, (22 points, seven rebounds, six assists), Carter (20 points, 10 rebounds), Thomas (19 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots), Guzman (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Alvis (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists) led a balanced offensive attack.

Friday, March 9 @ Ventura College

#1S San Diego City vs. #4N Santa Rosa
#2S Cerritos vs. #3 Yuba
#3S Orange Coast vs. #2N Fresno City
#4S Allan Hancock vs. #1N San Francisco City

Photos by Daryl Peterson