Southern California College again showed it can play with the best the Golden State Athletic Conference has to offer, but again fell short, losing to Azusa Pacific, 87-71, in a men's basketball game Friday.

Tuesday, SCC forced one of the conference's first-place teams, Westmont, to overtime before losing by six. Friday, the Vanguards took a brief two-point lead midway through the second half against the other first-place team, but couldn't hold the Cougars.

"We came close enough to play close," SCC Coach Bill Reynolds said. "But we need to be close enough to think we can win again.

"We have lost the last four or five in a row and that hasn't happened before in my 15 years here."

Actually, it's a bit worse than that. The Vanguards (12-15, 2-8 in conference) have lost six consecutive games and dropped into last place, where they finished last season. It's not a familiar position for SCC, which had never finished worse than second previously.

Azusa Pacific (20-7, 9-1) led by as many as 13 in the first half, but the Vanguards cut the deficit to six, 47-41, at the half and continued the rally early in the second half. SCC's 7-0 run, capped when Chris Kostoff made one of two free throws, gave the Vanguards a 57-55 lead with 12 minutes 11 seconds left.

But the Cougars, ranked No. 23 in the NAIA national poll, wouldn't allow much else. They extended their defense and went on a 21-4 run. Raymond Tutt, who leads the conference with a 27-point average, scored 10 during the stretch. Tutt scored 17 of his game-high 23 in the second half.

SCC couldn't respond, partly because Kevin Carlson, one reason the Vanguards were in the game, fouled out at the 7:53 mark. Carlson, who scored 16 points, committed three fouls during the run, in a span of 56 seconds, fouling out when he was called for charging on a dunk attempt.

Jon Naro scored 19 points and Chauncey Woolridge scored 10 before apparently being hit by an elbow and leaving the game because of a gash above his left eye with 3:43 left.

"We don't seem to have enough poise in critical situations to overcome momentum by the other team," Reynolds said. "Let's attribute it to our youth and inexperience."

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