The Saddleback men's basketball team is back above .500 after a 73-72 overtime win against College of the Canyon on Saturday at The Master's University. Dillon Waikle converted a three-point play in the closing seconds to lift the Gauchos past the Cougars.
Saddleback bolted out to a 17-5 lead in the opening nine minutes as the Gauchos defense clamped down on Canyons. The Gauchos held the Cougars to 1-of-9 shooting in the early goings in taking the double-digit lead. Canyons would eventually find a rhythm, clawing their way back into the game as Saddleback took a 30-25 lead into the locker room at the intermission. David Dial led Saddleback with 10 first-half points while George Maslennikov, playing in his first game in two weeks, added six points and three rebounds.
Saddleback stretched the lead to 40-32 in the second half when David Dial converted a three-point play with 14:31 remaining. The Cougars again battled back, cutting their deficit to 42-40 when Jordan Nash connected from long range with 12:28 remaining. From that point forward, both teams went cold from the field as the defenses settled in. Neither team scored a point for a two-minute stretch midway through the half, before Joel Carrillo made a jumper for the Cougars to cut the Saddleback lead to 46-42.
Saddleback looked like they had grabbed control down the stretch when Nik Lipovic drilled a three-pointer for a 55-48 lead with 3:48 remaining in the game. Canyons again battled back, cutting the Gaucho lead to four with under a minute remaining. The Cougars got closer when Nash made a layup to cut the lead to two with under 30 seconds remaining.
Saddleback had a chance to put the game away in the final seconds, but a missed free throw gave Canyons the ball with a chance to tie the game or win it with a three-pointer. The Cougars ended up tying the game after Dial was called for a foul, as Christopher Bradford converted two free throws in the final seconds to send the game to overtime.
Canyons came out hot in overtime, scoring the first six points to take a 67-61 lead. Saddleback then returned the favor, scoring seven straight points and taking a 68-67 lead on a three-pointer from Lipovic.
Canyons led 72-70 in the closing minute when Saddleback made its move. The Gauchos took the lead for good when Dillon Waikle scored with 10 seconds remaining on the clock and was fouled on the play. Waikle stepped up with ice in his veins and drilled the free throw, giving the Gauchos a lead they would never relinquish. Canyons had one more shot in the waning seconds, but it failed to go down as Saddleback survived with a 73-72 win.
Dail and Maslennikov with a team-high 18 points apiece while Captain Whitlock had a team-high 10 rebounds. Lipovic added 12 points, finishing 4-of-12 from long range.
Saddleback improved to 4-3 with the win. The Gauchos will have a week off before playing in the Riverside City College Tournament on December 4 against Copper Mountain College.