For the second year in a row, Citrus was knocked out of the California Community College Athletic Association men’s Southern California playoffs by Mt. San Jacinto. It was Citrus’ ninth straight playoff appearance.
Led by state leading scorer Samuel Williams, who is averaging 25.8 ppg, the Eagles (23-7) were able to pull away from Citrus in the second half of their second-round matchup for the 87-69 win.
No. 7 Mt. San Jacinto will play No. 2 Saddleback College in the third round of the Southern California Regionals on March 4.
Mt. San Jacinto came out firing at the beginning of the game with two consecutive three-pointers to take the early 6-0 lead. The Owls (16-11), however, picked up the intensity on the defensive side of the ball.
No. 10 Citrus took the lead behind freshman guard Ryan Wiley and sophomore center Chaunce Hill as they spurred the Owls to a 7-0 run.
Wiley would finish the game with a total of six points, two rebounds, one assist, and one block, most of which came in the first half.
Mt. San Jacinto kept it close. The Eagles out rebounded Citrus 24-17 and went to the free throw line 18 times in contrast to six times for the Owls. Citrus lead 40-37 at halftime. The Eagles’ Samuel Williams led both teams in scoring with 11 points.
“Our coach told us, as bad as we played, we were only down three points,” Samuel Williams said. “Either you want to win right now or just go home and have this be the end of your season.”
In the second half, the Owls came out strong but were unable to slow down Williams and the Eagles.
Mt. San Jacinto guard Blake O’Donnell tied the game up at 50 apiece before Mt. San Jacinto went on an 8-0 run to grab the lead for good.
The Owls never gave up, but were ultimately unsuccessful as they fell 87-69. “I just tried to stay calm and just knock shots down,” said Williams.
“That was the only thing going through my head, just knock it down.”
Citrus was outscored 50-37 in the second half. The Eagles forced 14 turnovers overall, with nine in the second half alone. The Owls were also outrebounded 50-36 for the game although the Eagles were only able to convert seven second-chance points.
“We don’t box-out at times to try and grab the rebound and that’s been hurting us all year,” said Citrus sophomore guard John Roach.
Mt. San Jacinto’s biggest contributions came from the free throw line. The Eagles shot 40 free throws and converting 28 of them. The Owls were 12-15 at the free throw line.
“I’ve never seen a game where there were double the amount of fouls for one team,” said Citrus head coach Chris Victor. “But we had our chances in the first half. I thought we played well and to be up by only three at the half was a good job by Mt. San Jacinto. I thought we controlled that first half.”
Roach led Citrus with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal.
Roach and freshman guard Mark Williams were the only two Owls in double digits. Samuel Williams and O’Donnell lead the Eagles with 29 points and 17 points respectively.
“We were up and down a lot during the season,” said Victor.
“You just watched a game where you saw the team’s abilities in the first half and almost the opposite team in the second half. We weren’t very consistent, and tonight’s game showed the whole season in one final game.”
The game provided an opportunity for much needed experience for several of the underclassmen on the team.
Ryan Wiley and Mark Williams both played at least 25 minutes, the second and third most played minutes for the Owls.