The Saddleback men's basketball team had a great first weekend of the 2014-15 campaign, heading on the road to the College of the Desert Tournament and coming home with the ultimate hardware. The Gauchos defeated host Desert in the title game 98-88 behind freshman Dusty Baker, who scored 23 in the finals.
Baker (pictured below) played a supporting role in the first two games but ended up being the lead actor in the finals when he lit up the Roadrunners from the free throw line, scoring 16 of his 23 points in the final eight minutes of the game. Baker finished 16-of-17 from the charity stripe, including six in the final 36 seconds as the Gauchos were eyeballing the tournament trophy.
Saddleback had dominated the first two games of the tournament behind 7-footer Conor Clifford but things took a different path on Saturday when Clifford headed to the bench in the first five minutes with two fouls. The Gauchos were forced to play a quicker tempo against an athletic Desert squad and proved to be up to the challenge. Saddleback shot 62.5% from the field and a sizzling 80% from the free throw line in a game that took two hours and 15 minutes to play, with the teams combining for 79 free throw attempts
In addition to Baker, starter Maurice Jones scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and Brandon Fagins came off the bench to score 14 as the Gauchos went deep into the well on the first weekend of the season. The Gaucho reserves finished 14-of-19 from the field and outscored Desert's bench 42-24, with Jalen Hall dealing out five assists in 19 minutes.
Saddleback will play again on Friday when they travel to San Bernardino Valley College for the annual SBVC Tournament. The Gauchos play Pasadena City College (1-2) at 1:00 PM in the opening game of the tournament.