The Fullerton College Hornets’ comeback was not enough, as they dropped their first home game, 75-71, against San Diego Mesa, in the first round of the Fullerton College Classic, Wednesday night.
Leading up to the home opener, Fullerton made a trip to San Diego Miramar and competed in the Don Gehler Memorial Tournament where they went 1-2. Despite having three games already under their belt, they did not look ready to play in the first half of Wednesday night’s game.
The first half was dominated by the Olympians, who had the upper hand in rebounding and scoring off turnovers. The Hornets were not in control of the pace of the game, and leading scorer Joel Brokenbrough fell into foul trouble early on.
“First half we didn’t come to play, we were down 16-7 in rebounding, and we just didn’t play hard,” said Hornet head coach, Andre Smith.
The Olympians jumped out to an early lead and never lost it. They controlled the pace on offense with guard Novian Cherry and Forward Derreon Tolliver leading the way. Although they fell into foul trouble early, which kept Cherry out of the game for a good portion of the first half, they kept a double digit lead for the most part, and Fullerton wasn’t able to get going.
“I thought we came out very strong in the first half, our inside rebounding was good, and helped us get the momentum going early,” said San Diego Mesa head coach Ed Helscher.
Kris Kintzle had a big first half for the Hornets, and kept the game from getting out of hand by knocking down the three ball. He began the game shooting 3-4 from three point range, but couldn’t get many more looks once the Olympians defense started focusing on him.
Brokenbrough was pulled from the game for the last 6:18 of the first half, after committing his third personal foul while defending the paint. The first half ended with the Olympians leading 38-27.
The Second half picked up right where the first half ended with the Olympians matching their first half intensity. They came out dominating the boards, and forcing turnovers defensively. They jumped out to a 17 point lead halfway through the second half.
Down by 17, coach Smith called a timeout and made some substitutions on the floor, and the Hornets looked like a brand new team. They began chipping away at the lead, with the help of Roger Hamel and Carnell Gray who came off the bench and boosted the team on both ends of the floor.
The Hornets offense began to penetrate the inside and consistently get to the foul line. Brokenbrough found his rhythm offensively, and was able to stay away from committing fouls defensively.
“Joel did a fantastic job bouncing back in the second half, and came to play,” said Smith.
The Hornets brought it back to a 10 point game with four minutes to play, and weren’t looking to stop there. The intensity of The Nest and all the fans was rising, and the game was becoming more chippy and competitive, with a scuffle between the teams breaking out and resulting in a double technical foul.
The Hornets had the deficit down to five points before Brokenbrough made a big basket cutting it down to three with 1:10 remaining in the game. Roger Hamel then had two key defensive stops, first drawing an inbounds passer to a 5-second violation, and with his resilient pressure, forced a traveling violation the next time down the floor.
“The defensive pressure was good, we were just trying not to turn the ball over,” said Heschler.
Brokenbrough scored off the turnover making two free throws with 29 seconds remaining. The game then became a free throw contest, where the Olympians did not prevail. However, the Hornets had a chance to tie the game, down by 3 with 17.9 left, but could not get a good shot off. They had to foul once again with 2.8 seconds left and Mesa was able to stretch the lead to four.
The Hornets finished the game very strong, but didn’t find their rhythm until it was too late.
“The second half is where my team came in fighting and fought hard, and did what we came to do,” Smith said.” “Had we played like that in the first half, this is not a close ball game.”
Derreon Tolliver finished the game with a double-double, cashing in 19 points and 10 rebounds. Brokenbrough lead all scorers for the Hornets with 19 points and 8 rebounds.
The Hornets look to bounce back as they will continue on in the tournament on Friday, as they are sitting at 1-3 through the first four games of the year.