M. Basketball: Lead gets away in 89-83 loss

Keshaun Mack scored 13 points for the Falcons
Keshaun Mack scored 13 points for the Falcons

Already playing without their third leading scorer (9.8) and rebounder (5.4) in sophomore Jason Carter (View Park HS/Santa Monica College), the Cerritos College men's basketball team knew they needed to come up with a near flawless game plan when they squared off against San Francisco City College in the CCCAA State Semifinals at Ventura College on Saturday night. The Falcons, seeded #2 from Southern California, saw their 73-60 lead with 8:30 left in the game slip away, as the Rams posted an 89-83 win. The loss by the Falcons ends their season at 27-6.

It was the first meeting against San Francisco City College since the 1992-93 season when the Falcons posted an 81-50 win. The teams had also met each other three other times in the post-season, with Cerritos earning an 88-84 win in the state semifinals on their way to the 1998-99 state championships. They lost to SF City in the 1983-84 and 1977-78 state playoffs.

Once they took the lead, the Falcons struggled to maintain possession of the ball and turned it over on their next four possessions. San Francisco City (32-1) converted those turnovers into seven points, and continued their comeback by going on a 15-1 run over the next 4:16. The Rams took the lead, 75-74 on a Lewis Hayes layup with 4:06 left in the game. A Jonathan Guzman (Paramount HS) layup briefly gave Cerritos the lead again, but San Francisco suddenly found their shot and outscored the Falcons, 29-10 over the final 8:30.

Struggling at 36% from the field in the second half, San Francisco City was able to slice their way through the Falcon defense during their second half comeback. Cerritos had their troubles throughout the game and turned the ball over 18 times, while the Rams took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, converting 25-of-32.

Sophomore guard Keshaun Mack (Long Beach Jordan HS/Antelope Valley College) drained a pair of free throws with 58.3 seconds left in the game to get the team to within 84-83, but Niamey Harris was fouled and made one of two free throws on the next Rams possession. Although he missed the second attempt, the Rams had three chances from offensive rebounds until Hayes scored with 43.6 for an 86-83 San Francisco City lead.

On their next possession, freshman guard Christian Alvis (Whittier Christian HS) missed a three-pointer and San Francisco City converted their free throws to secure the win.

In the first half, the Falcons were able to use both an up-tempo and half court offensive attack to stay close with the Rams. The biggest downfall for Cerritos was their number of turnovers (9), while early fouls put San Francisco City at the line 14 times, and they converted 13 of them.

Trailing 27-21, the Falcons went on an 8-0 run, with sophomore Demetrius Thomas (Bassick, CT HS/Porterville College) leading the break. After a steal, he pushed the ball upcpourt, where he found freshman Cody Wilkes (La Mirada HS), who hit a three-pointer. On the next possesion after a missed San Francisco City shot and Thomas rebound, Wilkes was left alone and he hit his second straight from long distance. They took a 29-27 lead when Guzman was able to back up Ben Borja and hit a turnaround hook shot with 8:09 left in the first half.

Their last lead in the half was at 39-34 when sophomore guard Malik Smith (Gahr HS) completed a three-point play with 3:14 left on the clock, followed by the third Wilkes three-pointer with 2:50 left. The remainder of the half consisted of going 1-for-3 from the field and one turnover on a potential fast break.

Thomas and sophomore Riley Hamilton (Rancho Verde HS) led the Falcons with 16 points each, while they both posted six rebounds. Mack (13 points, six rebounds), Wilkes (12 points) and Guzman (10 points, five rebounds) also scored in double-figures for Cerritos. Playing more minutes with the absence of Carter, freshman Austin Freeman (Rancho Dominguez Prep HS) came in and scored a pair of points and pulled down three rebounds.

Photo by Pat Dickinson