March 9, 2019 Men's Basketball
The Santa Monica College Corsairs used a stingy defense to defeat Riverside City College (RCC) 66-54 to advance to the State Championship round. RCC tied their season-low in points with 54, tied their season-low in field goals made in a game with 18, and tied their season-low in three-pointers made in a game with two.
"Our team has been playing great defense of late. We knew Riverside had some really good guards that can shoot from the perimeter and score. We really focused on contesting shots and making it hard for them to manufacture points," Head Coach Joshua Thomas said in his post-game interview.
After leading 30-29 at intermission, the Corsairs (20-11) used a swarming defense and held RCC (20-10) to 8-25 (32%) shooting from the field. Freshman guard Eli Degrate led the charge with great on-ball defense on RCC's leading scorer. RCC struggled to find open looks and when they scored, it was often on a tightly contested shot.
"Eli really hounded RCC's leading scorer. He did a great job on him and made it tough on him all night. And in the second half the entire team defense rallied behind Eli. We outrebounded by eight in the second half and our defensive rotations were crisp," Coach Thomas explained.
Sophomore power forward Marcus Harris led the Corsairs with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. Sophomore power forward Lucas Zemen was a huge lift off the bench with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Degrate finished with 11 points and sophomore small forward Jordan Wilson tallied eight points, five rebounds, and four assists.
"Lucas was huge tonight. I really challenged the team to rebound better at halftime and Lucas grabbed nine rebounds in second half," said Coach Thomas. "Marcus was really aggressive to score and played inspiring defense and rebounded as well. Jordan stepped up in the second half with all of his points scored in the second half."
The Corsairs, seeded #13 in the Southern California Regional bracket, are now seeded #4 in Southern California in the State Championship bracket.
"I am really proud of our players. They really understand the intensity and focus that is needed in playoff action. As the head coach, I tend to get a lot of attention, but my coaching staff – Justin Maidenberg, Devon Richardson, and Ben Doran – are so important to our team success on and off the court. From academics, to on-court coaching, to film break down, to game-planning, to travel, to in-game adjustments, their imprint on this team is always felt. I am blessed to work alongside these men and our players are blessed to have them as coaches and mentors," Coach Thomas said.
The Corsairs will travel to Ventura College (host site for the state tournament) to face #1 seed San Francisco City College (29-1) on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. in the Elite 8.