The No.1 seed Fullerton College Hornets (25-3) survived an upset scare against the No.16 seed Mt. San Antonio College Mounties (19-8).
Thursday night’s home game started out looking like it would be a blowout in favor of the Hornets.
Early in the first half, sophomore guard Ronnie Stapp hit a 3-pointer to give the Hornets a 9-2 lead, and the Mounties were forced to call a timeout.
However, Mt. SAC did not back down and kept the game close in the first half playing very physically defensively, even knocking out one of sophomore Chazz Hutchison’s contact lenses in the first half.
Freshman guard Kobe Newton heated up for the Hornets midway through the first half.
Newton drilled two 3-point shots on back-to-back possessions to give the Hornets their biggest lead of the game at 17-7.
Hutchison began to assert himself into the paint towards the end of the first half, drawing fouls by the Mounties. Hutchison got six free throws and shot perfectly from the line.
The first half would end with turnovers by both teams before the clock ran out with the Hornets leading the Mounties by ten 43-33.
In the second half, the Mounties came out firing, outscoring the Hornets 12-1 to start the half. As the momentum shifted the Mounties got out to a 49-44 lead.
After a timeout by the Hornets coach Perry Webster, Hutchison threw down a massive dunk off of a great assist by freshman guard Coree Joseph that brought the Fullerton bench and fans to their feet.
The game would go back and forth for much of the second half, with both teams exchanging the lead.
Hornet guard Stapp had a huge second half, converting five-of-six free throws and making a momentum-changing 3-pointer. This gave the Hornets a seven-point lead with under seven minutes left on the clock.
“One step closer to our goal. We’re not satisfied and there is nothing like fighting with my brothers,” said Stapp after the game.
Hutchison closed out the game, hitting four free throws as part of a 28 point night accompanied by nine rebounds.
Stapp added 19 points, Newton 17, and sophomore forward Gaven Ramirez added 14 points.
Webster said, “I thought we did some things well, some things poorly. I think that we can play better and we’re gonna need to play better. Playoff games are tough and I thought we came out a little lackadaisical at the half and credit to them, they fought like hell.”
Up next the No.1 seed Fullerton College Hornets (25-3) will host the No. 9 seed Citrus College Owls (22-6) with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
“We’ve had a lot of close games this year and we find ways to win those games so I’m proud of my guys and we just have to rest up and get ready for Saturday,” Webster concluded.
The two teams played a close game earlier this season with the Hornets winning 67-64.
“We played them earlier this season and it came down to the wire so they’re gonna have a chip on their shoulder. They are gonna want to come into our court and take it. It’s gonna be a 40-minute dog fight,” said Hutchison about the upcoming game. “We’re a little banged up right now so we’re gonna get our treatment and be prepared for them.”
The next game is at home for the Fullerton College Hornets on March 5 at 7 p.m.