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Short-handed Vaqueros drop 3rd-place game to Canyons

Taylor Burns scored 14 of his season-high 18 points in the first half. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Taylor Burns scored 14 of his season-high 18 points in the first half. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

SBCC was facing long odds on Saturday in the third-place game of the 45th annual SBCC Classic.

The Vaqueros were missing their top two scorers and only used seven players in an 86-72 loss to Canyons. The Cougars (6-6) had five players between 11 and 17 points, led by Denzel Nwanguma, who finished with 17 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals.

Kile Kleiner (15.8 ppg) and Zeke McMurtry (15.0 ppg, 12.4 rpg) didn't play for the Vaqueros (2-8) due to injuries. Freshmen Taylor Burns and Piers Donald picked up the slack with both netting a career-high 18 points.

Burns, a 6-3 forward from Pioneer Valley in Santa Maria, hit 6-9 from the field, 2-3 from 3-point land and pulled down four rebounds. Donald, a 6-6 left-hander from Toluca Lake, was 6-8 from the field and 6-7 from the charity stripe.

The Vaqueros trailed throughout the game and only tied the score twice at 8-8 and 10-10. Canyons went on a 10-2 run midway through the first half, capped by back-to-back 3's by Leonard Wilson (14 points, 8 rebounds), for a 28-19 advantage with 8:38 left until halftime.

The Vaqueros fell behind by 11 on two occasions, then ended the half on an 11-2 burst to pull within two, 41-39, at intermission. Burns led the way with 14 first-half points on 5-7 shooting, including two 3-pointers.

"I was very pleased, particularly with the way we moved the ball," said coach Morris Hodges. "That's been one of our weaknesses, not sharing the ball and not having enough passes per possession. We started out well, moving the ball from side-to-side with a lot of guys touching the basketball and that gave us a lot of good energy.

"We started getting hurt on the offensive boards in the second half and our shooting tapered off a little."

Both teams shot close to 52% in the first half, then the Cougars hit 41.9% in the second half while the Vaqueros dropped to 31.0%.

For the second straight night, SBCC's opponent started the second half with a 14-4 run to gain control. Anthony Simone, a 6-7, 240-pound forward, sank a short bank shot and an 11-foot turnaround to give the Cougars a 55-43 edge 4½ minutes into the second half.

The Vaqueros got within seven (63-56) when Jacob Williams hit one of his three 3-pointers in front of the SBCC bench. Chris Joo responded with a triple at the other end, igniting a 7-0 run that stretched the lead back to 14 at 70-56.

Williams scored a season-high nine. Joseph Holden added nine points and five rebounds, Jaylen Jackson had eight points and four boards and Michael Green added five rebounds and five assists.

"We have a building block to move forward in terms of sharing the ball on offense and working the defense more," said Hodges. "We're hoping to get Kile and Zeke back for our next game."

The Vaqueros will play three games in the L.A. Southwest Intensity Classic, opening against Santa Ana on Thursday at 3 p.m.

L.A. Trade Tech topped Bakersfield 73-57 in the championship game, winning its eighth straight to improve to 8-2. Desert took the consolation crown with a 75-59 win over L.A. Valley and Compton won the 7th-place game in a scorefest, beating Oxnard 103-93.

Mark Chin of Trade Tech scored 19 points and was the MVP of the Classic. Fredelin De La Cruz, the state's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, added 16 points and 16 rebounds.

All-Tournament Team
 MVP – Mark Chin, L.A. Trade Tech
 Fredelin De La Cruz, L.A. Trade Tech
 Aenius Medrano, Bakersfield
 Anthony Simone, Canyons
 Sam Skipper, Desert