The COC basketball team began the season on Thursday night, losing to East Los Angeles College 88-74 on the first day of ‘The Clash at Canyons Tip-Off’ event at College of the Canyons.
The Cougars got down by double digits early but were able to claw their way back on several occasions throughout the game, utilizing their speed and quickness against a bigger Huskies team.
“That is one thing we want to focus on is transition,” said COC guard and Saugus alumnus Zach Phipps. “Get the ball up the floor and get quick, easy shots. Keep the tempo going which gets us going.”
Phipps, who is listed at 6-foot-3, started the game defending East LA’s center, who stands 6-foot-9.
With a lack of centers on the roster plus injuries to some of Canyons’ big men including sophomore Davis Williams, who will miss four-to-six weeks after having surgery on his knee last week, Phipps will be relied upon to guard bigger players throughout the season.
“You never know with foul trouble and we have a couple big guys but not as many as we like,” Phipps said. “I’ll definitely be able to step in that spot and guard the bigger guys.”
Even with a tough defensive assignment, Phipps led the way in the scoring department, finishing with 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting and went 3-for-9 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard Jude Agbasi finished with 15 points, three rebounds and two steals, shooting 50 percent from the field.
As one of the elder statesman on the team, Agbasi knows it will take some time for the team to gel.
“It’s a new team so we got to regroup, refocus and keep our heads up,” Agbasi said. “It’s the first game of the season so we just have to come in with the same energy and get better.”
Canyons head coach Howard Fisher wasn’t thrilled with the loss, but was encouraged by his team’s effort.
East LA came into the game ranked as the No. 2 team in the state in the preseason polls, so Fisher knew it was going to be a battle.
“We’re trying to learn what it’s like to compete on this level. It’s an education and that’s what we talked about after the game,” Fisher said. “In the record book it’s going to be a loss, but the “L” wasn’t for loss, it was for learn, and we learned we can compete with the No. 2 team in the state.
“The good thing is we can fight, we can play. We were undersized today and we got to work out some of the kinks. Not take days off and learn how to practice hard every day.”
Freshman guard Jordan Nash recorded eight points, four assists and three rebounds and freshman guard Leonard Wilson added 7 points and three rebounds off the bench.
COC will face Oxnard College in the second game of the tournament on Saturday at 12 p.m. at College of the Canyons.