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Cubs Season Ends In Play-Off Regional Final At Citrus College

March 11, 2008

It was fast-paced and kept fans on the edge of their seats but the final result favored “them” as LA City fell in overtime, 99-95, to No. 1 ranked Citrus College in a State Play-Off Regional Final on Sat., March 8.

Citrus (35-1) went on to win the 2008 Men’s Basketball State Championship but the Owls game against the Cubs proved to be their only close, challenging contest during the entire state play-offs. No other team Citrus faced was remotely within reach of defeating them except LA City.

The game was played at Citrus College (Glendora) and marked the 13th time in the past 15 seasons that the Cubs have played in a Regional Play-Off Final with the winner advancing to the California Final Eight. The Cubs have won a remarkable seven times during the aforementioned period – all under the guidance of head coach Mike Miller.

The Cubs finished the 2007-08 season with a highly respectable 25-9 record. “City” played their way into the Regional Championship game by defeating No. 6 ranked Riverside Community College, 81-77, one week prior. Citrus earned the right to face the Cubs after defeating Imperial Valley College in their second round contest.

The game was “give-and-take” throughout although the Cubs held the lead more total minutes than Citrus. The lead flip-flopped seven times on the heels of six ties. After the Cubs scored the opening basket, Citrus went on a 10-0 run and led 10-2 with 16:06 in the first half.

LA City countered following a time-out by creating their own 16-6 run that was highlighted by a fast break lay-up from freshman Cub guard James White (Jackson, MS) to give the Cubs an 18-16 lead.

“City” continued to surge past Citrus and led by as many as 10 points, 37-27, with 4:01 until half time when freshman guard Scott Sterling (Bronx Regional HS, NYC) sank two free throws following a technical foul on the Citrus bench.

The Owls battled back later in the half after Darren Moore scored six straight points. A subsequent fast break slam dunk off an Owl steal made the score 37-35. Owl forward Troy Payne’s offensive rebound and “put back” tied the score at 37. Both teams traded free throws in the closing moments to the half with Citrus taking a 39-38 midpoint lead.

Citrus opened the second half with a quick lay-up, but the Cubs countered on another 10-0 run to give LACC a seven point advantage, 48-41.

The Owls most key period in the second half arrived with 9:13 remaining and trailing by four points when they went on a 19-3 run that eventually led to a one point Citrus lead, 78-77, with 1:57 remaining in regulation.

Each team then exchanged possessions but Owl point guard Virgil Buensuceso hit a jumper in the key to give Citrus a three-point lead with 46-seconds to play.

Citrus held their lead for 30 more seconds on a pair of free throws by the Owls’ AJ Gasporra. On the inbound, Citrus fouled LA City’s season leading scorer, Branden Fisher (16.6 ppg / Genesis Prep, MS / Chicago) that sent him to the charity stripe for two free throws. Fisher sank both to draw the Cubs to within one point.

The Owls Moore was fouled by the Cubs with eight seconds left in regulation play and Citrus leading 84-83. Moore scored one free throw to put Citrus ahead by two points, but with time running out Fisher drove the length of the court to score a literal “leaping leaner” lay-up with one second left to tie the game and send it into overtime.

The Cubs scored first in the five-minute OT after Fisher sank a pair of free throws. Citrus countered with a three-point basket by Gasporra. Citrus stole the ball on the next Cub possession and ended the play with a slam dunk by Payne and a four point lead. Citrus never relinquished that lead.

“City” pulled to within one point with 17 seconds left in OT after a basket by sophomore forward Ricky Boyles (Washington Prep) but Boyles free throw after a foul on the shot dropped hard off the back rim and Citrus secured the rebound and victory.

Sterling led all scorers with 31 points on 10-for-19 from the floor and 6-for-7 at the free throw line. Fisher pitched in 25 points on 6-for-12 from the field and 10-for-13 from the free throw line.

Boyles added 12 points and a game high 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. Sophomore forward Diego Belizario added four points while hauling down an additional 13 rebounds.