Arabs' title hopes are over
Imperial Valley College's point guard Darius Singletary shoots against San Diego City College at IVC on Wednesday. (Joselito Villero)
The Arabs (19-7, 11-4 PCAC) will have to settle for second place to the champion Knights (19-7, 13-2 PCAC). Imperial Valley’s regular season ends Friday at Palomar and coach Tyson Aye expects second place to advance the team in the state championship tournament.
“We have a chance to host a home game in the playoffs,” Aye said. “We’ll know Monday. Our season is far from over. We didn’t achieve our first goal, winning the conference championship. Our next goal is the state championship.”
The Arabs weren’t the same team physically that ran over San Diego City 88-72 on the road on Jan. 13. Then-starting center Josue Mulamba left the team two weeks later and IVC played against the Knights without starting guard Melvin Cook, who hurt his knee in a win over San Diego Mesa last Friday. Leading scorer Brandon Newman is playing with a torn tendon in his right shoulder, a condition he’ll have to live with until getting rest in the off-season.
Even with those mitigating factors, the loss to San Diego City stung.
“It’s the worse feeling, the toughest loss of the season,” guard Travis Alexander said.
“I’m miserable right now,” Newman said.
What the Arabs can take away from the defeat is they played with pride and passion in attempting to overcome an 18-point deficit in the final 18 minutes. They kept cutting into it small chunks at a time, whittling it down to four points on Alexander’s 3-pointer, 69-65, with four minutes, 30 seconds to play.
San Diego City throttled up its transition game and went on a 11-2 run for an 80-67 lead with a minute remaining.
Imperial Valley’s downfall was turnovers. It committed 22 including a couple that fueled the Knights’ final run. San Diego City had 11 turnovers.
“We cut it to four and every time we had a chance to get over the hump, we turned it over again,” Aye said.
IVC had 13 turnovers in the first half, which ended with San Diego City leading 44-30.
Marvin Sykes’ back-to-back baskets to open the second half pushed the Knights’ lead to 48-30.
“San Diego City is extremely good in transition and when you turn the ball over 13 times, that equals transition opportunities,” Aye said.
Newman thought the Arabs were too excited at the start.
“We tried to play their game,” he said. “We were too hyped, too amped for the game.”
Down by 18 points, the Arabs made their runs against a clock ticking away. They spent seven minutes in a 14-3 onslaught to chop San Diego’s advantage to 51-44.
Freshman center Ryan Ena scored eight and Alexander six in the barrage.
San Diego, as good teams will do, got back to its running game and led 65-56 with seven minutes left.
The Arabs sliced the Knights’ lead down to four with a 9-4 run. Newman made four free throws and put an offensive rebound back into the basket for six points. Alexander followed with his 3-pointer to trail 69-65.
“We trailed the whole game,” Alexander said. “It’s hard to come back. We tried. They (San Diego) played with a lot of intensity.”
Newman led the Arabs with 25 points, 10 in the final minute as IVC effectively full-court press. But it was too late.
Alexander was outstanding from start to finish. He scored 17 points on 7-of-11 from the field including 3-of-6 3-pointers.
Ena had 15 points — 13 in the second half — and 13 rebounds. He was 6-of-9 from the field, 1-of-2 on 3-pointers, and 2-of-2 at the free throw line.
Darius Singletary scored eight and had seven assists, Nate Williams had six points, Shawn Jones five and Tyler Turner three for the Arabs.
“We still need to take care of Palomar (Friday), but these guys do a good job of bouncing back,” Aye said.