GCC basketball advances to Vaquero Classic final

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — When a team can double its score while keeping the opponent scoreless and then follow that up with another double-digit burst, it usually leads to victory, and that is exactly what happened in the Glendale Community College men's basketball team's championship semifinal matchup against Cuyamaca College as part of the Vaquero Classic Tournament on Friday evening.

The host Vaqueros had first-half scoring runs of 12 points and then 10 to seize control of the game, leading to a 82-62 victory and a place in the championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday on the same floor.

“I thought we guarded in spurts pretty well and that is what kind of gave us the momentum and the lead,” Glendale coach Brian Beauchemin said.

Glendale (5-5) saw the visitors turn an early tie at 12 into a 18-12 advantage halfway through the first half. After that, the Vaqueros went on a 12-0 run to double their tally and turn the six-point hole into a six-point lead. The surge was led by big man Gor Plavchyan, who had nine of his 13 first-half points in that span. The sophomore got it started with two lay-ins, assisted by Alex Bullock and Dion Nelson respectively. The 6-foot-7 freshman then made it six in a row with an offensive rebound and put-back, tying the game at 18.

“Our whole game plan was to run,” Beauchemin said, “especially our post guys. I didn’t think that was something [Cuyamaca] would have an easy time with, so we got out pretty good on that.”

Soon after, with 6:34 left, Vaquero Emerson Castaneda sank a three-pointer to give his team the lead for good.

Plavchyan followed with a three-pointer of his own, and Glendale led, 24-18.

Plavchyan finished as the game’s leading scorer with 20 points while shooting a scorching nine of 14 from the field. He also led everyone on the boards, finishing with 12 rebounds.

“I think we got seven points in that little spurt on the straight run, we call it the post-run, so that kind of ‘boom’ bounced us up a little bit then we kind of hung on,” Beauchemin said.

Cuyamaca (3-8) broke the run with two free throws, but Glendale promptly started another, scoring the next 10. This surge was spearheaded by Isaiah Howard, who had seven of his nine first-half points in the run that took place in the final three minutes before the break. The first came on a three-pointer from the right side, assisted by Nelson, who had a team-high four assists, and was then followed by two Howard free throws.

The final points of the run came on a steal and drive for a basket by Howard. The 6-foot-2 freshman finished with 13 points on five of seven shooting, while getting eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 24 minutes off the bench.

“I believe in playing with all your heart,” Howard said. “I feel that if you play with all your heart you are going to play your best.”

Joining Plavchyan and Howard in double-digits were sophomore Mike Johnson with 13 and Castaneda, a freshman from St. Francis, with 12. The Coyotes had three players reach double-digits, led by Garrett Larch-Miller’s 19 points on six of 16 shooting. Sophomores Harry Brazelton and Keko Moore joined him with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

In the second half, the Vaqueros advantage swelled to a peak of 27 with 7:07 left after a basket by Johnson, who drove straight down the lane to make the score 71-44.

The only thing that kept Cuyamaca close was its second-half feast from the free throw line. After going two of four in the first half from the charity stripe, the Coyotes went 18 for 23 in the second half as the aggressive Glendale defense forced tough shots, but also drew whistles.

“[When you give up free throws,] No. 1 you stop the clock, No. 2 you give them a chance to score without the clock running, No. 3 now they set their defense up,” Beauchemin said. “So three bad things happen when you put them at the line, especially late in games. So we got to clean that up a little bit.”

Glendale will now face Orange Coast College on Saturday at 5 p.m.

“We’ll see how poised we are with our freshmen under that kind of pressure and see if we can hold onto the ball a little bit and make some shots," Beauchemin said.

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