The Saddleback men's basketball team improved to 2-0 with a 68-54 win against San Diego City College on Friday night at the Fullerton College Tournament. The Gauchos will play San Diego Mesa College on Saturday, looking for a 3-0 start.
Saddleback started the season knowing they were facing a post-season ban from the playoffs. It seems they are using the ban as motivation to prove they are the best team in the state, playoffs or not. For the second straight night the Gauchos beat a team ranked in the top-15 in the state to start the season, and this one wasn't close down the stretch.
Saddleback beat San Diego City on Friday, a program that won the state title in 2017 and lost in the state title game last March. The Gauchos ran the Knights ragged, taking the lead with 16:40 remaining in the opening half and never relinquishing the lead.
Saddleback did it the old fashion way, by suffocating the San Diego City offense and making good at the free throw line. The Gauchos held the Knights to 35% shooting from the field while making 21-of-27 from the charity stripe.
Saddleback used a dominating inside game, led by Shawn Stith. The sophomore from Freemont High School in Oakland finished with a game-high 20 points, making 7-of-12 shots from the field while collecting eight rebounds. They received a second straight big game from J.J. Overton, who made 9-of-11 from the free throw line in finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. While those two weren't scoring, the defense was stifling a San Diego City offense by forcing 15 turnovers while collecting nine steals.
Saddleback led 31-26 at the break and came out of the locker room looking to make a statement. The Gauchos scored 11 of the first 12 points, building a 15-point lead with 17:20 remaining in the game. San Diego City managed to get within nine on two occasions down the stretch, but Saddleback answered with five straight points from Stith (pictured) to put the game out of reach with the clock running out on the Knights.
Saddleback (2-0) will try to open with a third straight win on Saturday when they play San Diego Mesa College (0-2). Game time is scheduled for 3:00 PM at Fullerton College.