The SLCC men’s basketball team came into Nov. 9’s home opener on a four game win streak—thanks to a balanced scoring attack along with very good defense. The Bruins got out to a big lead in the second half but the Mustangs made it tough down the stretch, cutting the lead to four. A big shot from Gary Payton II propelled the Bruins to a 93-82 win, their fifth in a row.
“We’ve got a young team and it’s progressing. We started out really well then got up quite a bit. Ideally we’d like to extend that lead and run away with it.” Said SLCC head coach Todd Phillips. “They climbed back in it like a good team does, we’ve just got to learn a little.”
After tip off, the game was at a stalemate for most of the first half, with both teams trading baskets. While the Bruins were much more efficient with their offensive possessions, shooting 48.3% from the field compared to 37%, the Mustangs countered with second chance points from offensive rebounding. The Mustangs ended the first half with seven offensive rebounds, which gave them multiple looks at the basket.
The first big run of the game came just before halftime. A flurry of scoring from freshman point guard, Aquavius Young, who managed to score nine points in just five minutes of play, helped push the Bruins lead to 11 at the half, 44-33. Young ended the game with 11 points shooting a perfect 4-4 from the floor and 2-2 from the free throw line.
The second half started strong for the home team. Despite giving up an early three, the Bruins extended their lead to 16 behind strong defense that created turnovers and easy buckets. At this point the game looked as if it was about to get out of hand, but that was not on the menu for the night.
The Mustangs came out of a time out and unleashed a barrage of three pointers on the Bruins. Mustang sophomore Mike Pelo, from Heber, Utah, scored nine of his 12 points in a span of five minutes. All of which were from three point shots. Along with freshman Isaiah Parros and sophomore Daveon Gibson, who scored a game high 19 points, the Mustangs shot their way back into the game.
Bruins head coach Todd Phillips, in an attempt to end the run, went to a 2-3 zone defense. But the Mustangs stayed hot from behind the arch and cut the Bruins lead to four with just over one minute left to play.
Then, after a time out by the Bruins, sophomore Gary Payton II came to the rescue. On a play were the Bruins looked very unorganized and the shot clock winding down, Payton nailed a pull up three from the right wing with a Mustang defender draped all over him. The shot pushed the lead to seven and it would not get any closer after that. The Bruins suffocated the Mustangs’ on the perimeter in the closing minute, forcing bad shots that ended in the Bruins shooting free throws after the rebound. Freshman Zerrion Payton put the exclamation point on the night with a breakaway dunk right before the buzzer to give the Bruins a 93-82 win, giving the Bruins a 5-0 record on the young season.
“We’ll take learning when we win and learning when we lose and so our guys are growing, so far it’s been good.” Said Phillips.
The Bruins continue their undefeated season in Twin Falls, Idaho at the College of Southern Idaho tournament, with games against Casper College on Nov. 15, followed by Western Nebraska Nov. 16.