The Saddleback men's basketball team remains in a tie for first place after an 81-60 win against Cypress College on Friday night at the Saddleback Gymnasium. The Gauchos clamped down on the Chargers, holding them to 27% shooting for the night.
Saddleback has one of the top defenses in the state in 2018-19 and it was on full display on Friday night. The Gauchos frustrated the Chargers for most of the night, forcing 16 turnovers while allowing Cypress to make only 16 shots the entire game.
On offense, Saddleback got a second straight gem off the bench from Tyler O'Donnell and another solid performance from starters Shawn Stith and Captain Whitlock. The trio combined for 48 points, with O'Donnell leading the group with 17 points. O'Donnell finished 3-for-4 from beyond the arc as the team made 5-of-8 from three-point range on the night. Whitlock (pictured left) scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, also collecting five rebounds and five assists. Stith was his normal dominating presence inside, scoring 15 points while finishing with a game-high eight rebounds.
Saddleback led 37-29 at the intermission, thanks in large part to Whitlock's 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. The second half belonged to O'Donnell, who scored 15 in the second 20 minutes as the Gauchos ran away and hid. O'Donnell was 3-for-3 from downtown in the second half, also going 4-for-4 from the free throw line. His first three-pointer stretched the lead to 46-36 with 13:57 remaining in the game after Cypress looked as if they were ready to make a charge. His second came with 6:42 remaining in the game to give Saddleback a 61-49 lead. The final dagger gave the Gauchos a 22-point lead with 3:41 remaining and was the topper on a 15-1 run.
Saddleback improved to 15-8 overall and 6-1 in Orange Empire Conference play with the win. The Gauchos remain in a tie with Fullerton College for the OEC lead with five games remaining on the schedule.
Saddleback will be back on the court next Friday when they host inter-district rival Irvine Valley College at the Saddleback Gymnasium. Tip time between the Gauchos and Lasers is scheduled for 5:00 PM.