It wasn't so much that Saddleback had to play at Los Angeles City on Saturday in the third round of the Southern California men's community college basketball playoffs.
It was that Saddleback had to play Los Angeles City.
Los Angeles City, the No. 3-seeded team in the playoffs, built a significant second-half lead, then withstood a late rally by No. 6 Saddleback to win, 83-70.
The Cubs (33-1) advanced to the State tournament starting Thursday at UC Irvine. Ventura, Cerritos and Riverside also advanced from Southern California. Northern California teams are West Valley, Hartnell, Sequoias and Fresno. The pairings will be announced today.
It marks the fourth consecutive year that Saddleback's season has ended a game short of the State tournament.
Saddleback was down, 42-32, at the half but increased the defensive pressure in the early part of the second half and drew close. The Gauchos were within four, 53-49, on a basket by Anthony Carter with 10 minutes 20 seconds left.
Carter had a chance to get the Gauchos closer 16 seconds later but missed two free throws; Saddleback made only three of six in the game.
Soon after that, things got very ugly for Saddleback.
The Gauchos turned the ball over four consecutive times, including twice on inbound passes, as Los Angeles City went on a 15-0 run to lead, 70-51, with 7:01 left.
"They and Ventura are the best teams we've seen this season," Saddleback Coach Bill Brummel said. "(Los Angeles City) got after the loose balls and made the key shots and we didn't."
After the Los Angeles City blitz, Saddleback regained its form and had a final chance. A 10-0 run cut the lead to 75-68 with 2:15 left. The Gauchos' defense then forced a five-second call and got the ball back.
But Micah Kroeger, who was five for 19 from the field and one for six on three-point tries, missed a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:06 remaining.
"I thought we made a real good comeback," Brummel said.
Anthony Carter had 25 points, including an impressive one-handed dunk that drew loud cheers from many of the Los Angeles City fans.
Eric Ambrozich added 13, and Kroeger and Frank Allen had 11 each for Saddleback (27-6), which was the co-champion of the Orange Empire Conference with Riverside this season.
Derrick Brown made 11 of 16 shots and finished with 28 points, and Markee Brown added 16 for the Cubs.
In the State women's all-star game:
North 103, South 101--Golden West's Julie Murdent lead all scorers with 22 points, and Orange Coast's America Robledo added 16 points and eight rebounds for the South at Orange Coast College.