“Wake up!” yelled LBCC men’s basketball coach Barry Barnes at his team during a timeout. “We gotta play tough defense! Come on! Come ON!”
Barnes’ exhortations came midway through the second half of his team’s huge game against East Los Angeles College last weekend, a meeting of the No. 5 and No. 6 teams in the state. LBCC (15-3) had taken a 38-33 lead at halftime but were struggling in the second half as their shooters were struggling to find their range, and the Huskies were getting layups at the other end.
LBCC and ELAC are two of the top three teams in the state in defense, and it showed for the rest of the game. The Vikings clutched up and managed to come back in the second half after trailing by six points late, despite going four minutes without scoring. They ended up forcing overtime, where they came up just a few points short in a 77-74 defeat to end their nonleague schedule.
“I wish we’d won it, obviously, but this game was exactly what we needed,” said Barnes afterwards. “I told our guys, ‘Season one is over, season two starts next week, that’s conference. We want to get to season three.”
It was a true clash of styles in the Hall of Champions–Long Beach is one of the best teams in the state because of its outstanding guard play, while the Huskies are one of the best teams in the state because of powerful post play. The Vikings had to scrap and compete all game to keep ELAC from overwhelming them in the paint, and the Huskies still got 15 points off offensive rebounds.
Poly alum Jeremiah Sadler was one of Long Beach’s heroes in the comeback, scoring a layup to tie the game at 60 with a minute and a half left, and then another to cut the Huskies’ four point lead to two with 36 seconds remaining in regulation. Jordan alum Jordan Heard hit a huge 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to make it 66-65 Huskies, and after they missed a free throw on the ensuing possession, Jace Bass made a layup with four seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
In the extra period, LBCC again fought from behind after trailing 74-70 with 27 seconds remaining, coming back to tie it at 74 points with 16 seconds after free throws from Sadler and a quick steal and score by Bass.
The magic ran out after that, as ELAC hit a free throw to go up by a point, then LBCC missed two in a row as well as the desperation heave to tie the game.
The Vikings were led by Bass (22 points), Sadler (14 points, seven assists), and Matthew Wooten (10 points). LBCC will open conference play this Wednesday at 5 p.m. against the other best team in the conference, their regional rival Cerritos.