STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT : Rancho Santiago Beats Long Beach for Another State Title

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rancho Santiago withstood a late rally by Long Beach to win its second consecutive State Community College men's basketball title Saturday, 73-70, in front of 3,533 at the Bren Center.

Rancho Santiago had a 13-point lead with 16 minutes 25 seconds left in the game, but Long Beach's defense finally started to slow down Rancho Santiago.

Long Beach's Terry Nelson rebounded and dunked the ball to cut the lead to 73-70 with seven seconds left. Rancho Santiago let the clock run down to five seconds before calling timeout.

When the Dons inbounded the ball, Long Beach's Rob Goodman tied up Brett Pagett and the Vikings got possession with two seconds left.

Rancho Santiago then called timeout to set the defense, allowing Long Beach a chance to call a play.

"My first thought was that I didn't want them to have time to set anything up," Rancho Santiago Coach Dana Pagett said. "But then I thought they might already have a play for that situation so I called timeout."

Pagett told his five starters--Corie Blount, LaVern Broadnax, Erik Martin, Brett Pagett and Glenn Green--to back up to near the three-point line.

Long Beach was still able to get the ball to Sheldon Grigsby past the line, and Blount, a 6-foot-10 center, broke toward Grigsby, bumping him as Grigsby stepped around and fired. The shot hit the back of the rim and bounced away as time ran out.

"I jumped out and I was lucky I didn't foul him," said Blount, who was a starter last season as well. "This is great, it means all our hard work wasn't for nothing."

The victory makes Rancho Santiago (35-2) the first team to win consecutive titles since Riverside in 1966.

It was also the 200th career victory for Dana Pagett, who is 200-94 in nine seasons. His teams have been 67-5 in the past two seasons.

"I never thought of it as a repeat," Pagett said. "This year's team is 75% new and this is their title. We knew it would be a hard game, they matched up with us really well."

Long Beach cut the lead to 67-63 when Damaine Powell made a 10-footer with about a minute left. Broadnax made four free throws and Pagett made two in the final 48 seconds to keep Rancho Santiago's lead at no fewer than three.

"When I was at the line," Broadnax said, "I was thinking that it was a big game and I had to put them down. This is great to do it again." Broadnax was also a starter last season.

Sophomores Blount and Martin each scored 20 points for the second consecutive night for Rancho Santiago. Blount was picked as the tournament's most valuable player and Martin and Pagett also were named to the first team.

Pagett finished with 16, including making four of five three-pointers. He had 11 of Rancho Santiago's first 20 points.

"Things were open for me early," Pagett said. "This is great, I'm so happy for my dad."

Melvin Jones had 15 and Victor Camper had 14 for Long Beach, which ends, 32-5.

"I think you saw two great defensive teams tonight," Long Beach Coach Gary Anderson said. "They probably were a little better on offense. I don't know if they have any more heart than us though."

Rancho Santiago had its biggest lead of the first half, 28-13, with 6:32 left.

Long Beach then went on a 9-2 run and got as close as, 30-24, with 2:30 left when Nelson had a lay-up.

Pagett then hit a three to push it to 33-24 though with 2:14 left. Then Pagett stole the ball, lobbed it to Martin, who slammed it down and Rancho Santiago led, 35-24.

"This really hasn't sunk in yet," Martin said. "Right now I'm kind of numb, maybe tomorrow I will feel it."

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