Photo by David Nurse
LANCASTER - Two down, three to go.
It's very hard to beat a team three times in the same season. Especially a conference foe.
But the Marauder men's basketball team completed the hat trick when it counted most with another come-from-behind victory against Citrus College, 96-86, and with it sent itself into the quarterfinals of the California State Championships, Wednesday night at Marauder Gymnasium.
With the victory AVC (25-6) will face Chaffey College, a 73-71 winner over Fullerton College in overtime, with the winner advancing to the State Championship Final Four.
The Marauders had already beaten the Owls (16-14), who slipped into the game with a shocking overtime victory against No. 2 seeded San Bernardino Valley College, twice this season entering the game (97-89 at AVC on Jan. 9 and 79-76 on Feb. 3 at Citrus).
In the first meeting between the teams, AVC found itself trailing by double digits only to come back for the victory. The Marauders led for the first 12 minutes of the game, but Citrus was enamored by the 3-point shot and it worked to its advantage. The Owls took their first lead of the game following a 3-pointer giving them a 30-29 lead with 7:50 remaining in the first half.
The Owls kept jabbing away at the Marauders keeping them at arm's length. A bucket by Keyshaun Mack helped AVC regain its lead 43-42 with 2:50 remaining, however, the Marauders would be held scoreless the remainder of the half. The Owls closed on a 7-0 run and a 3-pointer by Kenneth Cyprian at the buzzer sent Citrus into the locker room with a 49-43 lead.
Not to panic. The Marauders have been in this situation before.
In fact, AVC was 7-0 at home when trailing at halftime. Still the Owls remained on fire. They scored their first nine points of the second half coming off 3-point shots. Citrus, which had won six of its last seven games entering Wednesday night, built its largest lead of the game, following a basket by Mark Williams giving his team a 60-51 lead.
The Owls maintained their lead at nine points over the next three minutes, but the Marauders kept chipping away and used a 15-4 run over a span of five minutes as they regained the lead at that point, 68-66.
AVC, which has relied on its depth the entire season, got help off the bench from Cory Dollarhide and Gregory Wesley. During a eight minute stretch both players accounted for 21 of the team's 24 points. The Marauders' bench outscored the Owls' bench, 45-11.
With the Marauders clinging to an 85-83 lead, AVC's Jalen Etienne nailed a 3-pointer in the corner putting his team up 88-83 with only 1:06 remaining in the game. The Marauders pulled away when Citrus was forced to foul and AVC hit eight of 10 free throws down the stretch.