The Saddleback men's basketball team kept pace with the leaders in the Orange Empire Conference with an 86-68 win at Santa Ana College on Wednesday night in Santa Ana. The Gauchos now have critical games against the two teams in front of them over the next week.
Saddleback entered the week 1.5 games behind Orange Coast College and a half game back of Fullerton College so they knew a win was crucial on Wednesday night if they wanted to have a chance at a conference title. The Gauchos took care of business, getting out of the gate quickly and never looking back.
Saddleback grabbed a 6-0 lead to start the game and expanded it to 12-4 with points from Anthony Naimie, Colin Ferrier, Isaiah Brooks and Shawn Stith. It was a sign of things to come, as the Gauchos continued to distribute the ball, finishing the game with five different players in double figures.
Saddleback's defense was stifling over the first seven minutes, holding the Dons to just four points. Santa Ana went 3:17 without scoring during the stretch, missing four straight shots while turning over the ball two times.
Saddleback continue to pressure, extending the lead to 22-7 with 9:30 left in the opening half. Chance Kalaugher gave the Gauchos a boost off the bench when he came in and had a slam dunk followed by a bomb from long range. Santa Ana didn't break into double-digits until 7:43 left in the half when Keandre Broussard made a basket to cut the Saddleback lead to 29-11.
The second half started the same way as the first, with Ferrier burying a three-pointer and Brooks adding one of his own to give Saddleback a 49-33 lead. The Gaucho defense again clamped down, holding the Dons to two points over the first 3:34 while putting the game out of reach. Saddleback would eventually stretch out the lead to 26 with under five minutes remaining before calling off the dogs.
Naimie (pictured) led Saddleback with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field as the Gauchos shot 54.4% as a team. He was joined in double-figures by Kalaugher (13), Stith (13), Ferrier (12) and Reggie Varner (11).
Saddleback was also dominant on the glass, outrebounding Santa Ana 42-26. J.J. Overton led the Gauchos with 10 rebounds.
Saddleback is now 13-10 overall and 5-2 in Orange Empire Conference play following the win. The Gauchos have big matchups over the next week as they host Fullerton on Friday night and Orange Coast next Wednesday. The Gauchos and Hornets are scheduled to tip off at 7:00 PM in the gymnasium this Friday.