Photo by Bruce Jacobsen
GLENDORA - And then there were eight.
It took all 40 minutes, well minus 2.2 seconds at least, for the Marauder men's basketball team to come away with a thrilling 74-71 victory against Citrus College, Saturday night at Citrus.
AVC only hit two 3-pointers in the game, but none bigger than Reggie Byers' 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds remaining in the game to lift the Marauders to a come-from-behind victory sending the Marauders to the final eight of the State Championships.
"I told everyone we would come in and get this 'w'," said Byers, who finished with a team-high 17 points. I knew it wasn't going to be like last time."
In two prior meetings this season, Citrus defeated the Marauders, once at Marauder Gymnasium, 80-75, on Jan. 25 and the other at Citrus, 81-72, on Feb. 18.
"We played hard and we never gave up," said AVC's Jailen Gill, who finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds. "We just stayed locked in. We didn't start the game well and didn't come with any energy, but in the end we took over."
The Marauders trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half as Citrus (24-7) jumped out to an 11-2 lead, including three straight 3-pointers. AVC (22-10) settled down later in the first half and the Owls only led 37-34 at halftime.
"They never doubted themselves," AVC head coach John Taylor said. "They have really bought into the system. In these types of games you have to continue to just grind it out. I thought we smashed them on the boards."
The Marauders outrebounded Citrus 53-33 and had plenty of second chance opportunities in the first half but failed to convert.
"Everything for us started on defense," said Byers.
In the Owls victory against AVC in February, they shot a sizzling 13-of-27 from 3-point range. Citrus was only 9-of-33 from behind the arc on Saturday.
"Early in the season I don't think we were meeting our potential," Taylor said. "Tonight we had guys pick it up."
The Marauders got the Owls into an uptemo style of play that seem to wear on Citrus as they shot many 3-pointers with tired legs.
AVC fought all the way back in the second half to tie the score 47-47 following a dunk by Gill with 13:15 remaining. The Marauders took their first lead of the game following a steal and layup from Osi Nwachukwu, 49-47 with 12:35 remaining.
Both teams took its other's best shot and no team could take control of the game as it teetered both ways. At one point in the game Byers missed an acrobatic layup, but got the rebound through three defenders and was fouled completing the conventional 3-point play, giving AVC a 52-50 lead with 11:22 remaining.
Finally, the Owls tried to seize control of the game and took a 68-63 with 3:25 left in the game. Still the Marauders showed their mental toughness and kept the game close 68-67 with 100 seconds remaining.
Leading 71-69, Citrus' Jeremy Smith was fouled and was given two free throws. Leading to that point, Smith was 25-of-27 from the free throw line against AVC, including 6-of-6 for the game. Smith missed both and the Marauders got the ball.
Byers scored a layup to tie the score, 71-71, with 35.7 seconds remaining. Following a timeout by AVC, Smith took a deep 3-pointer that missed and the Marauders had one final chance.
AVC had no timeouts and Byers went off the screen and promptly drained the game-winner with 2.2 seconds. The inbounds pass was stolen by Gill to secure the victory.
Byers said that he practiced that shot from the exact spot but was frustrated in pre-game warmups when he couldn't hit it.
With the victory, the Marauders will travel to Los Positas College to face an opponent to be determined on Thursday, with a chance to go to the Final Four.
The final eight teams remaining in the bracket are AVC, East LA College, San Diego City College and Fullerton College from the south. From the north are top-seeded City College of San Francisco, Canada College, Yuba College and Feather River College.