The No. 18 Riverside City College men's basketball team entered into a contest against the No. 2 Santiago Canyon College Hawks as the underdog. Despite holding the Hawks under 80 points in their last meeting, something that has only been done by two other teams this season, Riverside was ready to prove why they should take over the title of top dog in the Orange Empire Conference (OEC).
Riverside came out of the gates sluggish despite only facing a three-point deficit at the half. The Hawks controlled the majority of the opening 20 minutes by snagging a quick lead and maintaining a small spread despite Riverside taking the lead on two occasions prior to the halfway mark.
The game worked its way to a 28-all tie with under a minute remaining in the first half. The Tigers grabbed their final lead of the first half lead complements of a three ball from freshman guard Zekiah LoVett. However, the Lasers flushed a three in response at the buzzer to give themselves a 33-31 advantage entering into the locker room.
Riverside busted out of the gates in the second half and quickly snagged a three-point lead as freshman guard Sammy Richardson hit a layup, backed by a deep three pointer from freshman guard Keylin Vance. LoVett handed the Tigers their largest lead of the night thus far at 44-39 with a three pointer closing in on the 14-minute mark to cap a mini 6-0 run.
LoVett remained blue flame hot as he hauled a fluid trigger from downtown. He hit two more treballs to extend Riverside's lead to 11 points at the 10 minute mark. He backed his bucket with another three pointer, but the Hawks rallied to pull within five points at 55-50.
Nevertheless, freshman point guard Melvin Walker continued to bless the Tigers with the momentum by hitting a deep three ball as the shot clock expired. A layup each from LoVett and Davis on consecutive possession handed the Tigers a 64-52 lead with under five minutes remaining.
However, the Hawks remained pesky as they did in their previous meeting. Riverside fell victim to a 13-2 run to put Santiago Canyon up 66-65 with under two-minute remaining.
Then the momentum shifted drastically in the Tigers favor. Santiago Canyon committed a technical foul that landed Walker at the line for a pair of free throws. Prior to the set of free throws, the Tigers were 0-for-6 from the line. They capped the game by hitting nine of their last 10 free throws, sparked by Walker's set of converted free throws, en route to a 76-72 win.
While both team's overall shooting percentages were nearly identical, it was Riverside who held the edge from long range. They boasted a strong 47.6 percent clip from downtown as opposed to Santiago Canyon's 26.3 percent mark. Furthermore, the Tigers dominated the board on a 42-26 ratio.
LoVett was pure silk from the floor as he finished with 23 points. He was automatic from three-point land as seen in a 5-for-8 clip. He added four rebounds and an assist in the process. Walker was clutch from the line in the second half by going 8-for-9 from the charity stripe and finishing with 13 points.
Sophomore guard Amir Davis was one rebound shy of a double-double as he bucketed 11 points and crashed the boards for nine rebounds.
Riverside (18-9, 13-2 OEC) will finish off regular season play on Wednesday, February 19 as they take on no. 6 Fullerton at home at 5 p.m.