NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Even though it led for most of the game and by as many as 11 points in the second half, the Glendale Community College men's basketball team's uneven play kept allowing visiting Los Angeles Valley to believe it could get back in the game at any time.
That belief translated into a late Monarchs run that nearly cost the Vaqueros the game.
"We gave them hope and you can't give guys hope," Glendale Coach Brian Beauchemin said after his team held on to eke out a 74-71 Western State Conference Southern Division-opening win at the free-throw line.
In the first half, it was 34% shooting from the field, including a dreary 0 for 12 from three-point range, that kept the Vaqueros from pulling away despite taking 12 more shots than Valley and claiming a 27-15 advantage on the boards. Then, in the second half, which it began with a 35-30 lead, Glendale picked its shooting up to 52%, but was outrebounded and allowed the Monarchs to pull back even at 67 at the 3:00 mark after trailing, 54-43, seven and a half minutes earlier.
"It's not pretty, but 1-0 is 1-0, so we'll take it," said Vaquero Narbeh Ebrahimian, who led the team with 13 points and made all four of his free throws in the final 25 seconds. "One or two of those [first-half three-point attempts] goes down and we just get on fire and it's not that close of a game."
Ebrahimian sparked the Vaqueros, as their intensity and their lead were beginning to wane, by popping a three-pointer out of the corner that made the score 63-57 with six minutes left in the second half. Nikolas Rhodes, who scored 11 points, followed with a driving layup to put the Vaqueros back up by eight with five minutes left, but Valley had another run left.
Alex Strauther, who led the Monarchs with 20 points, sank a three-pointer and Ray Shone dunked in the rebound of a missed shot to cut the lead back down to three before Rhodes found Antonio Garrett (10 points) alone under the hoop for an easy two and a 67-62 lead with 3:50 to play.
Valley (7-8) answered with a five-point run on a second-chance bucket by DeShawn Patterson and a Marcus Johnson three-pointer in transition, which was set up by a Glendale turnover.
The Vaqueros (12-5) never scored again from the field, but by limiting the Monarchs' production from the field the rest of the way to a two-point jumper by Strauther with 11 seconds left, they were able to close it out on free throws alone.
"They shoot the ball really well and we knew that," Beauchemin said. "We really did a good job defensively. We're not giving up a lot of points, but we're not making easy shots and it's making it doubly hard on our defense. Fortunately, I felt we did a good job at the end of just kind of keeping them at bay.
"We're 12-5 right now, so we've just got to keep it going. Our conference is going to be really hard. It's a tough conference, we've just got to play every game."