NORTHEAST GLENDALE — The Glendale Community College men's basketball team had the hotter hand and the cooler head down the stretch of Friday night's championship semifinal of the 2011 Vaquero Classic.
As a result, the Vaqueros will now be in their tournament's championship game at 5 p.m. today after beating Victor Valley, 69-61, in a game made a bit testy in the final minutes by a confrontation that could have escalated into something much more serious.
"I commend some of my guys [for] walking away from that," Glendale Coach Beauchemin said of a flare of tempers that began when the Rams' Jeff Barnes missed a driving attempt that would have cut Glendale's lead to two with under 10 seconds left, then took umbrage to the defensive play of Glendale forward Marquis Brooks, fouled him and went after Brooks after the whistle had blown. "We didn't get sucked into that. That was really, really commendable on our part."
Brooks didn't respond to the baiting, which continued until two technical fouls had been issued against Barnes. Brooks made one of two free throws for the initial foul and guard Shara Babakhanian made three of four technical foul shots to seal the game for Glendale (7-5).
Just before the fracas, Glendale point guard Nick Rhodes drove the lane and drew a foul with just under 20 seconds left and hit two free throws to make it 65-61. With seven points, 12 assists and five rebounds, Rhodes did a little of everything for the Vaqueros, who were led by the lights-out three-point shooting of Nate Bryant (seven for 10), who finished with 23 points.
"Composure, that's all we had," said Rhodes of how the Vaqueros were able to pull away from the Rams from a 55-55 tie with six minutes left. "Don't let them get in our heads."
Rhodes and starting forward Mike Johnson (13 points) began the game on the bench because of tardiness, according to Beauchemin, and the Vaqueros couldn't do much over the first five minutes.
Victor Valley scored on its first six possessions, while the Vaqueros' first five trips down ended in two turnovers and three misses, leading to a 10-0 deficit to open the game.
"Coach told us don't worry about the 10-0 lead, just keep playing our game," Rhodes said.
Bryant sparked Glendale with 11 first-half points, as the Vaqueros pulled to within five at the half. Bryant hit a deep spot-up three to give Glendale a 51-49 lead at the 11:30 mark of the second half and put the Vaqueros up again, 58-57, with a long ball at the 4:25 mark.
"I don't know if we've had a guy shoot a number of threes and be 70% from threes with that [many] makes," Beauchemin said. "Seven for 10, that's kind of unreal."
The lead changed hands several times over the last few minutes, with Glendale's Robert Henry hitting a pull-up jumper along the baseline for a 60-59 lead with 3:10 to go and Bryant leading Johnson to the basket with a perfect pass at the 1:35 mark that went for a layup and a 62-61 lead that would hold up for Glendale.