In basketball, championship-caliber teams cannot be judged on how they play just on their good nights. When all the shots are falling, and the bounces going your way. How does the team react when the shots aren't falling? When you're struggling to make every play that seemed so easy just a few weeks ago before the playoffs began.
The San Bernardino Valley College men's basketball team proved themselves Saturday night that they can handle adversity. They battled through on a night when the shots didn't come easily to knock off Pasadena City College 63-58 in the California Community College Athletic Association Southern California Regional Final game Saturday night inside the SBVC Athletics Center.
With the win, the Wolverines moved on to the State Championship portion of the bracket for the second consecutive season. SBVC will take on the North’s No. 1 seed, City College of San Francisco, in the quarterfinals Thursday, March 9, at West Hills College in Lemoore. The game is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and will be streamed live on the Bay Area Online Sports Network (BAOSN).
Saturday night, The Lancers outshot the Wolverines from the field, as Pasadena converted on 41.5 percent of its shots, compared to only 39.7 percent for SBVC. The Lancers held Dominique Daniels in check throughout the night, limiting him to 13 points- his lowest point performance since the season opener against Compton. Armon Muldrew struggled as well, finishing with 12 points- 9 of which came on three 3-pointers.
But in their stead came Chine Nwanevu, who became a presence in the paint. The freshman finished the game with a team-high 14 points- including going 6-for-6 from the field- and pulling down 11 rebounds. Duwon Franklin came off the bench in the second half to give the Wolverines a spark. His steal and a dunk brought the crowd back into the game, as he finished with six points and four rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
SBVC led by as many as 10 in the first half but held a one-point lead after 20 minutes. The game see-sawed back and forth for most of the second half, with Pasadena leading by three with 3:59 remaining. The two teams exchanged the lead 11 times, with the game being tied 10 times.
The Wolverines were down one as the final minute neared. Nigel Wilson fouled Aamari Smith going for a rebound of a missed Pasadena shot with 1:02 to go. Smith knocked down the two free throws on the other end to give SBVC the lead. Nwanevu pulled down the rebound on a missed shot from Shant Chenorhavorian, and the Wolverines worked the clock, eventually going to Nwanevu underneath, where he was fouled. His two free throws gave the Wolverines a three-point lead with 15 seconds to go.
Pasadena's Myles Watkins attempted a three-pointer for the tie that missed, and Daniels got the rebound and was fouled. He knocked down the final two free throws to close out the win.
Now, the Wolverines turn their attention to the Elite Eight– and the final eight have earned that title in California this year. The eight teams that have reached this stage have proved their mettle this season, posting a combined record of 216 wins and 24 losses in the 2022-23 season. Seven of the top eight seeds from both regions are in the final eight, with the north’s No. 5 seed West Valley College the only outlier.
But all those wins, losses, and seeds will matter when all eight teams take the floor Thursday to see who advances to Saturday’s Final Four.
For SBVC, the first task will be to take on the defending state champions, City College of San Francisco, which has remained tough to stop in the 2022-23 season. The team enters the game averaging 97.9 points per game while holding opponents to 66.5 points per game. Their three losses include one to the South’s No. 1-seed, Fullerton (in overtime), undefeated North Idaho College, and conference foe Chabot College, which was seeded No. 7 in the north, and lost to San Jose City College on Saturday.
CCSF has five players who finished the season scoring in double figures, led by Te’Jon Sawyer, who posted 15 points per game. Jamir Thomas, in a support role off the bench, averaged 12.1 points per game, while Mezziah Oakman posted 11.5 points per game. As a team, they have made 52.1 percent of their shots from the field, hitting 35.9 percent from beyond the arc.
On the other side, the Wolverines’ defense has been just as strong this season, limiting opponents to only 61.3 points per game. Two of SBVC’s three losses came during the team’s season-opening home tournament, falling to South No. 3-seed East Los Angeles, and Saddleback College in the Alvin Hunter Classic. The only other loss came to Salt Lake College, ranked No. 9 in the country in one poll, at the Fiesta Bowl Classic in Arizona.
SBVC’s offense is led by sophomore Daniels. He has averaged a state-best 26.2 points per game in the 2022-23 season while adding 6.5 assists per game. His fellow co-captain, Muldrew, has been right there with Daniels all season, averaging 18.7 points per game. The duo, who have made the most three-pointers in school history, have shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc this season. The team’s other sophomore, Sebastian Mendoza, has added 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to Saturday’s semifinals against the winner of South No. 2 Citrus College against North No. 3 College of the Sequoias.