Although the PCC men’s basketball team went winless during the San Bernardino Valley Alvin Hunter Classic, the young team proved they could play with some of the best teams in the state.
The unranked Lancers (1-4) opened the tournament on Nov. 14 with a 78-72 loss against the region’s No. 3-ranked Saddleback Gauchos. Saddleback was able to avenge PCC’s upset playoff win in the opening round of last season’s SoCal Playoffs.
Despite the Lancers current four-game losing streak, the team remains confident that they can continue to improve, particularly on defense.
“We have to play defense,” freshman guard Demetrius Overstreet said. “It all starts with defense. We can score with the best of them but we’re not playing good defense right now. We have to adjust to the hand-checking rule and continue to improve on defense.”
With referees doubling down on calling hand-checking fouls this season, the Lancers have learned the importance of defense the hard way. Against Saddleback, the Lancers were whistled for 32 personal fouls, sending the Gauchos to the line 48 times compared to the Lancers 25 attempts.
Freshman guard Keith Langston continued his efficient play with a team-high 20 points against the Gauchos, shooting 7-for-10 from the field. Freshman forward Jaryn Taylor came off the bench to add 19 points along with six rebounds. Freshman point guard Justin Fletcher added 12 points and seven assists.
Despite the loss, Taylor remains optimistic about the Lancers’ play and their future.
“I think we played pretty well,” Taylor said. “We started off with a slow start but at the end we played hard. We’re only going to improve.”
PCC shot well from the free throw line, making 18 of 25 attempts (72 percent), but Saddleback countered by totaling 35 makes in 48 line shots (72.9).
In the second round, the Lancers faced College of the Desert and led by nine points midway through the first half before falling behind 49-40 at halftime. The Lancers fell behind by 12 points with 12 minutes remaining in the game before battling back to take an 84-83 lead with 19 seconds remaining.
The Lancers looked to be on their way to an exciting victory but again the young team couldn’t seal the deal on defense, allowing the Roadrunners (4-3) to convert on a game-winning layup with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
“We started off strong but we started to sag off our opponent a little too much because we were getting called for a lot of fouls,” reserve forward Jeremy Jean added.
Sophomore guard Jonathan Henderson led six Lancers who scored in double figures with a game-high 27 points, including three 3-pointers and seven assists. Langston added 15 points (7-for-11 shooting) and nine rebounds, Taylor recorded 14 points, nine boards and four assists, and Fletcher added 10 points, five assists and three steals.
The Lancers play their home opener on Friday, Nov. 21 when they host No. 4 San Bernardino Valley (4-1) in a 6 p.m. game at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.