The Saddleback men's basketball team opened the 2017-18 season with a third place finish at the College of the Desert Tournament on Saturday in Palm Desert with a 65-53 win over West Los Angeles College. Freshman Shawn Stith was named to the all-tournament team following the event.
Saddleback was looking to bounce back from a four-point loss to San Bernardino Valley on Friday night, and it took them awhile to crank up the engine. The Gauchos trailed 5-1 to start the game before scrapping their way back into the game.
Saddleback left the offense in the locker room to start the game but eventually got things going when Anthony Naimie made a layup to cut the deficit to 7-5 with 16:20 remaining in the half. Naimie would make another layup three possessions later to tie the score at 7-7.
The teams would trade baskets until midway through the half when Saddleback took a 13-12 lead on a jumper from Reggie Varner at the 9:45 mark. West Los Angeles would never see the lead again as Colin Ferrier buried a 3-pointer for a 16-12 lead with 9:13 remaining and the Gauchos were off and running.
Saddleback clamped down on defense for a six minute span, allowing the Wildcats to score only two points as the lead grew to nine with under six minutes remaining in the half. The Gauchos would eventually extend the lead to 11 before settling for a 27-22 lead at the intermission.
The second half had a different feel as Saddleback came out of the locker room with a purpose. The Gauchos scored the first seven points in extending the lead to 12. The half also saw the emergence of freshman forward Shawn Stith, who dominated play inside the paint. Stith finished with 15 points in the second half on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. He would finish the game with a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds as the Gauchos cruised to a 65-53 win.
Stith was rewarded for his efforts by being named to the all-tournament team following the game. He finished with 47 points and 17 rebounds in the tournament, making 11-of-14 shots from the field while coming off the bench in all three games.
Saddleback will play again when they travel to Southwestern College to take on the Jaguars next Wednesday. Tip time is scheduled for 5:00 PM in Chula Vista.