SAN DIEGO — The Imperial Valley College men’s basketball team played superlatively in its most important game —so far — of the season Friday, to move into a first-place tie in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.
The Arabs beat San Diego City, 88-72, here.
“It’s our biggest win for this team,” IVC coach Tyson Aye said. “It puts us back in first and they still have to come to us.”
Brandon Newman scored a season-high 28 points and the Arabs had strong performances from every player. IVC shot 58.1 percent (36 of 62) from the field (6 of 18 on 3-pointers) and had a whopping 43-19 advantage rebounding. They were 10-of-15 at the free throw line.
Guards Travis Alexander and Melvin Cook each scored 11 points and were a combined 8-of-10 from the field. Center Josue Mulumba had 13 rebounds and 10 points on 5-of-8 field goals. Ryan Ena supplied a big boost with seven points and seven rebounds and swingman Darius Singletary had eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Tyler Turner broke out of his scoring slump to score seven and Nate Williams scored six on 3-of-6 from the field.
They all played defense, too.
San Diego tested Imperial Valley College’s poise and will in the first half with by knocking down shots from all over the court. The Knights were 15-of-25 including 6-of-10 on 3-pointers and had a 30-23 advantage midway through the opening half.
Aye took the Arabs out of their usual zone and put them into a man-to-man for the final five minutes of the first half and the entire second half.
The Arabs scored the final six points of the first half to take a 47-41 lead and began the second with a 12-4 run for a 59-45 lead. The Knights never recovered.
“I was very confident going into tonight’s game,” Aye said. ‘The most important aspect was our mental toughness playing in a hostile environment against a very good team. They (SDCC) shot the lights out and we stayed focused.’
San Diego plays up-tempo and the Arabs were willing to play it that way, too. It’s a primary reason IVC made 17-of-27, 63 percent, of its field goals in the second half.
The Arabs were hounding the Knights on defense, limiting them to 11-of-33 (33 percent) in the second half.
“The coach (Aye) stressed all week how important this game was and we needed to win and we came through,” Newman said. “We stayed together.”
IVC’s 88 points was a season high.
“Everybody thinks we are a half-court team, but showed tonight we can run with anyone,” Newman said. “We played great.”
Newman made 10-of-16 including 3-of-7 3-pointers from the field and was 5-of-6 at the free throw line.
“Brandon played great,” Aye said. “He licked up their leading scorer (Stephon Lamar, who averages 20 points per game) in the second half.”
The Arabs took the lead in the closing minutes of the first half on a short hook by Singletary, a 5-foot baseline jumper by Newman and a putback by Mulamba for the 47-41, It was a momentum builder that carried into the second half.