LA Pierce dealt the College of the Canyons men’s basketball team a four-point loss to open Western State Conference play this season and the Cougars returned the favor on their home floor Monday night.
Canyons never trailed in a 90-79 win at COC, moving to within one game in the standings of first-place Pierce.
“It is a testament to the character of these guys,” said Canyons coach Howard Fisher. “It’s been a long year. A lot of learning, a lot of teaching, a lot of growing, and for them to come out there with that kind of fire was nice to see.”
The Cougars (12-12, 3-2 WSC, South Division) opened the game on an 8-0 run on the way to their second highest point total in six conference games. Michael Kalu, Anthony Simone and Jude Agbasi each had 18 points to lead COC, with Agbasi also grabbing nine rebounds. The team’s highest point total in conference play came in a 100-96 loss to Pierce (9-15, 4-2) on Jan. 20.
“We thought we should have won the first game, so losing that was really bitter,” said Jacob Lilley, who had eight points, eight rebounds and a team-high seven assists. “We came out hot and just kept the tempo and the pace on them.”
Canyons is now in a three-way tie for second place in the WSC South Division, along with West L.A. and Bakersfield.
“We knew how important this one was for the standings,” Agbasi said. “We just came out focused and strong and carried the lead all night.”
The Cougars entered the half with a 42-29 lead but watched it cut to 68-63 with 6:56 remaining after a basket from Jordan Newt, who led Pierce with 21 points.
Kalu, Lilley and Simone each followed with a pair of free throws to give Canyons some breathing room, putting them up 74-65 with 4:21 to play. Frankie Campbell notched a double-double for COC, collecting 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We’ve continually talked about how every game in conference isn’t going to be easy, no matter who we’re playing,” Fisher said. “We have to be able to execute late and I was really pleased with how we handled that tonight.”
Canyons shot over 53 percent from the field in both halves, despite going 6 of 19 from 3-point range on the night.
The Cougars will travel to play Santa Monica at 3 p.m. on Saturday. They beat Santa Monica (3-19, 0-5) 74-63 following their conference-opening loss to Pierce.
Women’s hoops tally another win
The COC women’s basketball team picked up its fifth straight win prior to the men’s game with an 82-33 victory over LA Pierce (5-17, 0-6 WSC, South Division).
Saugus alum Maryrose Elias led Canyons (14-10, 5-0) with 19 points as it holds a one-game lead over West LA for first place in conference. The two teams will meet to close out the regular season on Feb. 17. Canyons won the first matchup against West LA back on Jan. 31 by a score of 75-68.
Morgan Bizzell was second on the Cougars with 11 points and Alexis Orellana had 10 points. Hart alum Kalana Inemer had eight points to go with 10 rebounds.
COC resumes conference play at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Santa Monica.