It’s been two years since Michael Kalu and Jacob Lilley suited up together at Granada Hills Charter but the chemistry from the former high school teammates was on display Tuesday night at College of the Canyons. Kalu and Lilley combined for 40 points in a 74-63 overtime victory for the Cougars over Santa Monica College. It was Canyons’ first Western State Conference, South Division win of the season. “We just told ourselves, we weren’t losing this game; it’s way too important,” said Lilley, who had 16 points and a team-high five assists and four steals. “You only get eight of these conference games and we already lost one. We can’t afford another loss.” COC (10-11, 1-1 WSC) watched a 32-19 halftime lead turn into 55-51 deficit with two minutes and 32 seconds to go in the game. Kalu and Lilley teamed up to get the Cougars the lead back, though. With 35 seconds to play, Lilley picked off an inbound pass and found Kalu wide open near the left corner. Kalu, who led COC with 24 points, drained the shot to give the team a 58-57 lead.
“The chemistry was there,” Kalu said. “I could count on him to pass me the ball with the clock winding down.” Jhamad Norwood, who led Santa Monica (3-17, 0-3) with 21 points, scored on a put-back from after missing a free throw to tie the game at 59-59 with just over a second to play in regulation. Santa Clarita Christian alum Philip Webb opened the overtime period with an and-one play – one of three for the Cougars in overtime – as they broke away for the win. Webb had a team-high 10 rebounds to go with nine points and two blocks. MORE: Kalana Inemer balancing parenthood and basketball in second COC stint “Right after we got that play off the tip in overtime, I saw our body language shift,” said Canyons coach Howard Fisher. “I think it swelled and we got some key rebounds and a couple stops in a row and we were able to keep it going.”
After Canyons opened the game on a 4-0 run, Santa Monica rattled off a 7-0 run, prompting a COC timeout. The Cougars regained an 8-7 lead with 13:07 to play in the first half and didn’t trail until Justin Coats knocked down a pair of free throws for Santa Monica with 6:14 remaining in regulation. “It was definitely hard to deal with the fact that we blew that lead,” Lilley said. “We just had to will five guys together and I think we made some clutch stops in the end.” COC resumes conference play on Saturday at Bakersfield.