COC Insider: Cougars come close to tourney title

College of the Canyons’ Michael Kalu drives to the basket against East Los Angeles College last weekend. Photo courtesy Jesse Munoz/COC Sports Information

The College of the Canyons men’s basketball team kicked off the 2016-17 season in winning fashion before eventually finishing as runner-up at the ninth annual ‘Clash at Canyons’ tournament held Nov. 4-5.

The Cougars (1-1) edged Glendale College (1-1) 79-74 in the opener of the four-team tourney, before falling to No. 8 East Los Angeles College 87-84 on Sunday.

COC forward Jason Horosny finished the contest vs. Glendale 6-of-10 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 mark from behind the arc for a team-high 18 points.

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Freshman Michael Kalu and sophomore Garrett Mike also gave the Cougars an offensive boost with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Sophomore guard Alex Sanchez contributed 11 points off the bench and freshman Garrett Harding chipped in with 10 points after going 3-of-4 from downtown. Austin Greenly had a team-high six rebounds in the game.

As a team, Canyons shot 46.3 percent from the field and 52 percent from three-point territory.

Earlier in the day, East L.A. (2-0) posted a 91-74 victory over Oxnard College (0-2) to set up a Sunday matchup with the Cougars. Despite another fine shooting performance, COC came up just short in a game that went down to the final buzzer.

Kalu finished with a game-high 29 points on an 11-of-17 shooting performance that included five three-pointers — good enough to earn All-Tournament Team honors.

Horosny had another big game for the Cougars, this time coming off the bench to finish with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists. Freshman Jacob Lilley recorded a game-high eight assists.

The Cougars will next compete at the Jonathan Wallace Memorial Basketball Tournament hosted by Ohlone College Nov. 11-13.

Women’s basketball

The COC women’s basketball team got its season started at last weekend’s Linda G. Smith Memorial Tip-Off Tournament hosted by Mt. SAC, with the Cougars rebounding from an opening round loss to win the tournament’s consolation bracket.

No. 12 Canyons (2-1) dropped its season opener 88-43 to Saddleback College on Friday, before rattling off victories vs. College of the Desert and Citrus College later that weekend.

In Saturday’s game vs. Desert, the Cougars were able to build a 26-3 first quarter lead en route to an 84-63 final score.

Canyons shot a combined 42 percent from the field in the opening quarter, compared to a paltry mark of just six percent by the Roadrunners.

In all, five COC players scored in double digits including guards Marina Rojas and Morgan Bizzell who finished with a team-high 17 points apiece. Rojas also added nine assists and eight rebounds. Forward Tasi Ramon finished the contest with a team-high 17 rebounds.

In Sunday’s matchup vs. Citrus College, COC battled to a 70-62 final score. Bizzell led the Cougars with 19 points on a 7-of-16 shooting night, while also pulling down nine rebounds. Freshman forward Jerica Washington also had a big game, with a stat line that featured a game-high 20 rebounds, 16 points and two blocks.

Washington averaged 12 points and 14.7 rebounds in her three outings to earn All-Tournament Team honors for COC.

Canyons will next take the floor at the Ventura College-Kiwanas Tournament of Champions being held Nov. 25-27.

Women’s soccer

The Cougars are champions of the newly-formed Western State Conference (WSC), East Division for the first time in program history, after clinching a sixth straight conference title last week.

Canyons (12-3-3) played to 0-0 draw with host Victor Valley College on Nov. 4, to claim a point in the standings and secure the conference crown, despite not emerging with the win.

Prior to this season the Cougars competed in the WSC, South Division, winning conference titles in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 — all under head coach Justin Lundin.

The 2016 conference title is the COC women’s soccer program’s 10th overall.

On Tuesday, the Cougars played to a 1-1 draw with second place Citrus College in a conference match that had no bearing on the final standings.

Sophomore midfielder Kailey Marquez scored the lone goal for COC in the 25th minute, for her fourth of the season.

COC is now undefeated in its last nine contests dating back to Sept. 27, and has outscored opponents 24-1 during that span.

Canyons will enter Friday’s regular season finale vs. host Pierce College as the No. 8 ranked team in the state, and No. 3 team in Southern California.

After that, the Cougars must wait to learn who they’ll face in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) SoCal Regional Playoffs, which begin on Saturday, Nov. 19.

Cross country

The COC cross country teams are heading back to the state championship meet after a qualifying run at last week’s CCCAA SoCal Championships held at Irvine Regional Park.

The women’s team placed seventh in the field of 27 teams, led by sophomore Jessica Ruiz’s seventh place time of 18 minutes, 56 minutes and 1 second on the 5K course.

Canyons entered the event as the No. 4 ranked team in the state, but was forced to run without top contributor Stephanie Martinez, who experienced leg tightness in pre-race warm ups and was subsequently held out of the event.

“We just wanted to be cautious heading into the state meet later this month,” said COC head coach Lindie Kane.

Freshman Díani Ellis posted the second fastest time for COC with her mark of 19:37 to finish 23rd.

On the men’s side, Canyons placed 18th in a field of 28 to claim the final qualifying spot for the state championships. Freshman Garrett Noltemeyer was the first to cross the line for the Cougars with a time of 22:14.2 to finish 74th.

Canyons will now head to the CCCAA State Championships on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Woodward Park in Fresno.

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