SANTA MONICA — Facing a six-point deficit with 47 seconds to go, the Glendale Community College men’s basketball team launched a valiant comeback to cut Santa Monica College’s lead to two in 19 seconds.
That’s as close as the Vaqueros would get in their Western State Conference South Division road game and 81-75 loss to the Corsairs, who hit their free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory Saturday.
“We tried to claw back into the game; we made a good effort at it,” Vaquero sophomore guard Mark Hicks said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, the way we needed it to.”
Santa Monica (13-7, 5-3 in conference) led comfortably at 75-69 after a made free throw with under a minute remaining. GCC’s Robert Henry then promptly drained a three-pointer from the top of the key.
Glendale (9-14, 2-6) fouled to preserve time and — after two made free throws by the Corsairs — Hicks made a trio of free throws after being fouled beyond the arc. Glendale then deflected the ball on the inbounds play, before Chris Kopooshian fired the ball out to Henry, who sunk another triple to bring the score 77-75 with 28 seconds to go.
The Vaqueros didn’t have the final push to tie or take the lead, as they missed a pair of free throws and a three-pointer. Santa Monica guard Madison Higgins, who had 14 second-half points, was perfect on four tries from the free-throw line to nail down the victory for the second-place team in the conference.
In total, Santa Monica was 25 of 28 from the charity strip, highlighted by nine of 11 from Keilan Horton. The freshman guard finished with 20 points, second on the team only to Higgins (21 points).
“Our fight was great,” Glendale Coach Brian Beauchemin said. “I mean, we came back. We’ve been doing that all year — fight, fight, fight, fight — but we’re our own worst enemy. We fight so hard, but then it is counterproductive. They’re battling their ass off. We just can’t give the other team a chance to make shots, and give [Santa Monica] credit, they made some shots.”
Glendale Community College was led by a pair of big men in the middle, who both registered double-doubles. Freshman starting center Gor Plavchyan chipped in 14 points to go along with a team-high 12 rebounds, while Mike Johnson came off the bench to finish with a team-high 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. The sophomore scored 12 of his points off offensive rebounds and appeared to grow stronger as the game progressed, notching 16 of his points in the second half.
“Coach is always in my head talking about offensive rebounding and how big it is to our team,” Johnson said, “so I try to take that into consideration and get as many boards as I can.”
The Vaqueros had three more players reach double digits to go along with Plavchyan and Johnson. Henry, who led Glendale with six assists, had 13 points. Freshman Emerson Castaneda, formerly of St. Francis High, had 11 points and Hicks had 10.
Glendale took the lead early in the contest and stubbornly held on to it, with the advantage peaking at six near the midway point of the first half. It was then that the Corsair’s William Taylor came off the bench and torched the Vaqueros the rest of the way until the break, pouring in all 18 of his points in the game.
With GCC ahead 15-9, Taylor scored his team’s next 10 points, with the final three of his personal run giving Santa Monica the lead at 20-19.
Glendale took the lead back, but lost it for good with 3:39 left before the break on a conventional three-point play by Santa Monica’s J’Ryon Moss, who had ten of his 14 points in the first. Taylor then scored five more points in the half’s final minute to push the advantage to nine before Castaneda scored the final basket of the half, at which Glendale trailed 41-34.
Throughout the game, turnovers were a problem for the Vaqueros, which forced them to attempt a frantic comeback that came up short as the Corsairs held firm on their home court.
“We turned it over too many times,” Beauchemin said. “That has been our albatross all year. We had 20 turnovers. You can’t win a game turning it over that much.”