Photo by Bruce Jacobsen
MISSION VIEJO - Last year it was in the state playoffs. This season it was a non-conference game.
For the second year in a row the Marauder men's basketball team traveled to Saddleback and upset the Gauchos on their home floor. This time AVC held on for a 56-53 victory over the fifth ranked team in the state, Saturday night.
Saddleback (3-2) led 29-24 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, but the Marauders rallied with a 6-0 to close the half and took a 30-29 lead into halftime.
AVC (2-2) which has blown leads in the second half in losses to Riverside and Palomar, built a 40-31 lead only five minutes into the half. The Marauders maintained their lead midway through the second half following a jumper by Surako Follings. Saddleback mounted a comeback and used a 9-0 run to tie the score, 46-46, with just under eight minutes remaining.
The Gauchos crawled back and took a 51-50 lead with 3:15 remaining in the game. Two free throws by Saddleback helped it keep a 53-52 lead with 1:17 remaining. Jamar Kemp gave the Marauders the lead following two free throws.
"I thought we battled. I didn't think we battled hard enough in the Ventura Tournament. They're a team where you have to battle or you'll lose. It's a battle of wills," AVC head coach John Taylor. "It's a morale booster. Guys have to understand that you're going to take lumps. I thought we matured a lot from the game itself. Wine or lose we would have taken something positive, but it's just a little sweeter now."
With 20 seconds remaining AVC's Osi Nwachukwu missed a jump shot with the Marauders leading 54-53. However, the Gauchos turned the ball over and two free throws by D'Mauria Jones helped seal the victory.
Jones led AVC with 16 points and Kemp finished with 15. The Marauders open the San Bernardino Tournament next Friday.