MONTEREY PARK, CA — It was that dreaded No. 4 seed against the No. 13 seed in the CCCAA Southern California Regional Bracket second round. The 13th seed won twice in the last three years entering tonight’s game.
Make that three wins out of four years for the 13th seed.
Santiago Canyon College shocked East Los Angeles College men’s basketball team 94-89. The Hawks sank 19 treys and hit 84.0 percent (21-pof-25) at the line.
“It was a great shooting night for both teams,” said Husky sophomore forward Roderick Williams (Price High School), an NCAA Division I bound prospect. “We do our best on defense and should have done better.”
“Win or lose, we don’t stop,” said Williams. “We’ll get back to it tomorrow morning by getting into the gym and the team will continue to take care of business with academics.”
Williams was recruited last year as a freshman by a host of universities including D-I schools. “I’m going to miss ELAC. This is home. l love everybody who came out to support us, but I’ve got to move on, so I’m looking forward to where I will transfer.”
ELAC led 4-3 two minutes into the game for its only lead. Santiago Canyon built a 17-point lead, 46-29, with 2:45 remaining in the first half. ELAC closed the half with its best run of the night, 10-0 and cut the lead to 46-39 entering the locker room. Williams led the team at that point with 16 points and a blocked shot that wooed the crowd.
Santiago Canyon opened the second half with four three-pointers and had a double figure lead with 17:15 left in the game. They held a double digit lead for six minutes. The Huskies then pumped up their defense and scraped back to a 79-76 deficit with 5:08 left in the game from a freshman forward Jacob Tryon (Great Oak High School) three-point shot assisted by freshman guard Abdul Bah (Narbonne HS).
ELAC kept it close and Williams hit a jumper to bring the Huskies within two, down 84-82 with 2:18 remaining in the game. Santiago Canyon’s hot hands closed with a 10-7 game-ending run, which left the home crowd stunned.
Five Huskies scored in double figures. Williams scored his third double double in the last five games with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He was 12-of-13 from the line with seven of them swishes. Bah scored a season-high 16 points and finished with a team-high four assists.
Tryon scored 15 points and canned three treys for the third time this season. Sophomore guard Frank Bertz (Sultana HS) scored 11 points and had five rebounds. Freshman guard Darius Henderson (Taft HS) scored 10 points that included two 3-point shots. Standout sophomore center Colin Bell (Santa Monica / Campbell Hall High Schools) added his usual excellent defensive play.
ELAC had no answers for Santiago’s top leaders, sophomore forward Rodney “Rocket” Henderson (St John Bosco HS) and freshman point guard Antoine Jenkins (View Park HS) who scored 35 and 28 points, respectively.
Rocket Henderson leads the state with 809 total points and is the second-best scorer in the state with a 27 points-per-game scoring average. Rocket Henderson, the only sophomore on the Hawk team, was explosive with a game-high seven shots beyond the arc and driving to the basket, which included three dunks. Rocket Henderson is first in the state in total rebounds with 288, but was held to seven tonight.
Jenkins, who has the fourth-best scoring average in the state, added a game-high 10 assists and finished with the game’s only double double. He was 13-of-16 from the charity stripe and connected on five three-point shots.
ELAC had an uncharacteristic 12 assists to 31 baskets while Santiago Canyon dished 20 assists to their 27 baskets.
“It’s a tough loss, which we will all learn from,” said freshman guard Nick Hart (West Covina HS). “Things will not always go your way, but a lot of guys are coming back next year while others are moving forward to the next level so this (program) will respond the right way and keep pushing.”
The Huskies, one of the elite basketball programs in the state for four straight years, ends their season with a 24-6 overall record and an untypical early playoff exit.
ELAC has finished in the State Championships Bracket two out of the last three years and was the State Runner-up in 2015. ELAC finished in the Elite 8 in 2016 with a 26-4 record.
It was the third time in four years ELAC has played in a No. 4/13 seed second round game. In 2016, then 4th seeded ELAC beat then 13th seeded Cerritos College 68-63 in overtime. In 2015, the Huskies, then seeded 13th, won 79-77 at 4th seeded Mt. San Jacinto College.
Follow ELAC Athletics at http://athletics.elac.edu/landing/index or on Facebook at ELAC Huskies Athletics (@elachuskiesathletics).
story submitted by Tadzio Garcia