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COMMUNITY COLLEGE MEN’S BASKETBALL : Wet Surface Helps Saddleback Roll

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saddleback, with some help from the weather, held Rancho Santiago to its lowest output of the season in an 80-56 victory in the Orange Empire Conference opener for both teams Wednesday at Saddleback.

Rancho Santiago played without starting forward Jon Surface, who couldn’t get to the game because of flooding near his home in Garden Grove.

With the 6-foot-8 Surface absent, Saddleback held a significant height advantage and outrebounded the Dons, 63-32. Aaron Aguilera, who is 6-4, was the Dons’ tallest player.

Rancho Santiago (13-4 overall) came into the game averaging 84 points.

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Micah Kroeger, who is 6-6, had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Eric Ambrozich, Saddleback’s center, had 10 points and 14 rebounds.

“It was simple tonight,” Saddleback Coach Bill Brummel said. “But I still think (Rancho Santiago) is a good team. . .I think our defense really bothered them.”

Saddleback (14-3) had beaten Rancho Santiago, 79-70, Dec. 30 in the championship of the Dons’ holiday tournament and this game started out close as well.

Saddleback never led by more than six until Rancho Santiago stumbled in the final minute of the first half and the Gauchos pushed the lead to 42-33.

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Saddleback dominated the second half behind the play of Kroeger, who had 12 points.

Rancho Santiago’s Jimmy Harris made a three-pointer with 15:41 left to cut the lead to 47-40, but the Dons failed to score in the next 5:41 and Saddleback pulled out to a 19-point lead before the Dons finally scored again.

In other conference games:

Irvine Valley 89, Fullerton 86 (OT)--Brook Lister banked in a three-pointer as time ran out to win the game for visiting Irvine Valley (13-6, 1-0). Teammate Rashad Wilson had 29 points, including making 14 of 19 free throws. Brian Scoggin added 15 points for Irvine Valley.

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Marcus Austin had a career-high 36 points and Jason Cunningham added 14 points, 11 assists and nine steals for Fullerton (9-9, 0-1).

Riverside 88, Cypress 71--Riverside (17-2, 1-0) had five players in double figures in the victory at home. Rodney Wills had 17 for the Tigers. Jeff Cummins had 24 for Cypress (13-7, 0-1), which lost to Riverside for the second time in three meetings this season.

Cypress made nine of 28 three-point tries led by Gil Gonzales, who was four of nine.


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