In a tale of two halves, College of the Canyons men’s basketball hosted Ohlone College in the Cougar Holiday Classic at College of the Canyons on Friday.
Canyons came out cold in the first half, shooting 22.7 percent from the field, while Ohlone couldn’t miss, hitting 17-of-31 field goals and shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
Canyons (9-8 overall) turned it around in the second half playing hard, in-your-face defense, limiting the visitors to only two second-half field goals to win 75-59.
“I think we had a little holiday hangover,” said Canyons head coach Howard Fisher. “Our practice yesterday left a lot to be desired and that was the main thing that I communicated at halftime. You can’t compete at a high level when you take days off and don’t compete for every possession, every play and I think we did that on both sides of the ball in the second half.”
Trailing 42-22 at the break, Canyons came out on fire to begin the second half going on a 14-0 run ignited by Leonard Wilson and Zach Phipps, who hit multiple 3’s and had timely steals, capping the run with Anthony Simone’s sweet layup.
Wilson finished with a game-high 19 points (3-of-7 on 3-pointers), grabbed four rebounds and two assists in the win.
“I think we played together better than we have been, everything just clicked,” Phipps said. “As you can tell everybody was making plays. We had Anthony getting buckets, Staff getting buckets, everybody was making plays so I think that camaraderie and us coming together really boosted us in the second half.”
Phipps finished the night second on the team in scoring with 15 points, adding six rebounds and five steals.
Ohlone (3-11) finally made its first field goal with 14:02 left in the game after a 3-pointer by Kyle Vickery to push the lead back to 45-36.
After Vickery received a technical foul for arguing with the ref, Simone knocked down two free throws and Phipps followed it up with a corner three to bring the Cougars within one point at 45-44.
Canyons took its first lead of the game on a Jude Agbasi fast-break layup with 10:15 left after a Denzel Nwanguma steal.
Nwanguma distributed the ball beautifully the rest of the game, finding Simone down low for the easy two or finding Staffon Chiles and Agbasi cutting through the lane.
Canyons was able to stretch the lead and ended the game on a 36-point turnaround to advance to the championship game tomorrow at 3 p.m. against the winner of LA Trade Tech and Orange Coast.
“We just need more energy,” Nwanguma said. “If we begin the game with the same energy that we came in with in the second half, we could win the conference and we can win every game.
“That’s all it is, energy.”