Canyons men’s hoops focused on finishing season strong

Returning three players from last year’s team, College of the Canyons’ 2018-19 men’s basketball team is trying to stay competitive all the while develop some consistency heading down the final stretch of the season and into Western State Conference play.

Led by sophomores: guard Jude Agbasi and forward Anthony Simone, the Cougars are currently 9-12 overall and 0-1 in Western State Conference South play.

“We are still a work in progress,” said Canyons head coach Howard Fisher. “I think learning how to compete day in and day out is still something that needs to continue to evolve. The consistency is what is lacking.”

Agbasi is first on the team averaging 16.5 points per game and Simone is second with 14. Both are top three in rebounds per game averaging 4.4 and 7.7 rebounds per game, respectively.

“I think he is playing more,” Fisher said of Agbasi production. “Last year he was more of a complimentary player. This year he is starting and getting more opportunities.

“We talked about the need to get him more touches, he’s shooting over 60 percent from the floor and 80 percent from the free throw line,” Fisher said of Simone’s growth. “We need to play an inside, outside game now because he’s getting the respect from a lot of opposing coaches and they are doubling him more often to start the game. He needs to be a quicker passer out of the post when he does gets double teamed or he needs to finish faster.”

Freshman and Saugus grad Zach Phipps has instantly contributed to the team, setting the tone in his first game of the year against East Los Angeles by scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shots. Since then, Phipps is averaging 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He is top-five on the team in all three categories.

“He’s multi-dimensional and is able to score the ball from the perimeter, but also inside,” Fisher said. “He’s playing a little bit out of position for us this year because of injuries, but he himself was injured too and has started every game that he has played in. He is a competitor and brings and understanding of the game.”

After defeating Ohlone 75-59 in the Cougar Holiday Classic on Dec. 28, the Cougars have dropped four in a row, losing the last three contests by single-digits with the most recent loss coming by five points to Bakersfield last Wednesday.

With a home game against Santa Monica looming at 5 p.m. on Wednesday the team has addressed what needs to happen.

“We have talked about how much cleaner we have to execute and how much better we have to take care of the ball. We were up three with a 1:45 left against Bakersfield and didn’t score the ball,” Fisher said. “When you are on the road we missed nine free throws and we are one of the betters teams in free throw shooting. Again, we talked about the consistency. We don’t have a large margin for error so we have to make free throws, we can’t turn the ball over and we have to execute in the half court.”

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About the author

Diego Marquez

Diego Marquez

A native Angeleno, Diego is a sports aficionado that has played and covered multiple sports since he was a child. He is a graduate of California State University, Northridge and is a sports writer for The Signal.