College of the Canyons rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to post a 74-71 upset victory over Santa Monica in a Western State Conference game at Santa Monica.
Nick Sanderson put the game away with two free throws with 10 seconds to play after a technical foul had been assessed against Santa Monica (16-8 overall, 1-1 in conference play) for calling a timeout it did not have.
Sanderson, a sophomore guard, led all scorers with 21 points. His foul shots and streamlined flights to the basket enabled the Cougars to hold off the Corsairs down the stretch.
“We’ve been in this situation so many times,” Sanderson said. “We’re not going to blow anyone away, so we’ve got to learn to hang on under pressure. I’m glad we did it against a team like Santa Monica at this point in the season.”
The Cougars (12-11, 1-1), who have been plagued by a lack of attack in the late part of close games, were able to hold on through hustle and tight defense.
Trailing, 44-30, at halftime, Canyons Coach Lee Smelser was somehow optimistic. “We had a four-point turnaround right before the half ended,” he said. “We missed a shot and they got a layup. If it weren’t for that shot, we’d have been in good shape.”
The Cougars began the second half with a 29-7 run, climaxed by Chris Dyer’s three-point basket that put Canyons ahead by eight just as the shot clock expired with 10 minutes remaining.
Santa Monica’s Earic Peters, who scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, was the only Corsair to score in the half until Dorian Manigo made a layup with four minutes to play.
“I didn’t know how the guys would react,” Smelser said, “but they kept it up on the defensive end and prevailed.”