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Moorpark Passes Road Test, 80-75

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The Moorpark College men’s basketball team was well aware of two grim facts when it traveled to College of the Canyons on Thursday night.

One, the Raiders hadn’t won a Western State Conference game on the road. And two, a loss to Canyons would all but kill the Raiders’ hopes of reaching postseason play.

But Moorpark left Canyons with two things--an 80-75 win and new hope that it may wind up in the state tournament for the second time in two years.

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Canyons no longer controls its own destiny. With a 4-7 conference record, it must win its two final games and hope for an at-large berth to the state regional playoffs. Moorpark must also win its two last to advance to the playoffs as the second-place team from the WSC’s Southern Division.

To stay in the hunt, Moorpark (15-11, 5-6 in conference) will have to perform at least as well as it did against Canyons, when the Raiders survived despite blowing most of a 19-point, first-half lead.

Moorpark threatened to make it a rout early on, scoring six unanswered baskets in the last four minutes of the first half to take a 42-23 lead. Canyons held on, however, behind five points from forward Anthony Hines and the Cougars cut their deficit to 44-30 at halftime.

In the first six minutes of the second half, Canyons methodically chipped away at Moorpark’s lead. Ron Stapp scored 12 of his 15 points, and with 13 minutes left, Canyons trailed, 52-47. But each time Canyons got close, its offense broke down.

“I think we may have got too excited,” Stapp said. “We tried to execute but made some mistakes, and when we did, Moorpark capitalized on them.”

Moorpark also took advantage of Mitch McMullen, or, rather, the lack of Mitch McMullen. The 6-10 sophomore center spent nearly 15 minutes of the first half on the bench with three fouls.

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“When he’s on the floor,” Canyons Coach Lee Smelser said, “it makes a big difference. But, of course, a team can jump out like that when the biggest guy in the game is sitting on the bench.”

McMullen scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half as Canyons (15-14) pulled to within four points twice but watched Moorpark pull away each time behind guard Gary Walker, who orchestrated the Moorpark attack with nine assists.

Canyons made its final run when Kevin Honaker hit a three-point shot with 5:14 left to bring the Cougars to within 72-62. Butch Mettinger added a three-pointer with 3:30 left as Canyons trailed by only four at 72-68.

But in the final minutes, Canyons was forced to foul and Tom Neumayr, Marlin Adams and Dave Inemer each scored a field goal to extend the Moorpark lead.

MOORPARK--Inemer 4, Jercha 11, Neumayr 15, Walker 1 and 9 assists, Tapia 6, Staples 12, Bussey 13, Moncure 6 and 5 assists, Adams 8, Pugh 4.

CANYONS--Stapp 15 and 8 rebounds, Hines 16 and 15 rebounds, McMullen 14 and 8 rebounds, Mettinger 7, Williams 6, Honaker 11, Linzy 6.

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THE WSC RACE North

W L GB Ventura 9 1 -- Santa Barbara CC 8 3 1 1/2 Allan Hancock 7 3 2 Oxnard 3 8 6 1/2 Cuesta 3 8 6 1/2

South

W L GB Glendale 6 4 -- Bakersfield 5 6 1 1/2 Moorpark 5 6 1 1/2 College of Canyons 4 7 2 1/2 Santa Monica 3 7 3

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