College of the Canyons men’s basketball headed south to West Los Angeles College for its final road game of the year on Tuesday.
Avenging a loss in their first matchup, the Cougars dug deep in the final five minutes of the game to come away with an 81-74 victory over the Wildcats.
“It was a great team win,” said Canyons head coach Howard Fisher. “We had everybody step up and make contributions, especially in the last four minutes when they were up three. We went 8-of-8 from the free throw line towards the end, got some big rebounds and a big blocked shot to get the victory.”
Canyons (13-14 overall, 4-3 in Western State Conference, South) trailed West LA 9-6 after they hit three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the game.
Things only got worse for Canyons when guard Zach Phipps picked up his second foul with just over 14 minutes remaining in the half.
With Phipps on the bench, guards Denzel Nwanguma and Jordan Nash picked up the slack by driving into the pain and distributing the ball to teammates for open shots.
“I just looked to get my teammates involved,” Nash said. “They made the shots and made me look good, so when they are open, I just hit them.”
Nwanguma finished the game with 16 points, six rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Nash recorded a game-high nine assists to go along with two points and four rebounds.
Finding their stride, the Cougars jumped out to their biggest lead of the game at 25-18 with under eight minutes to go in the first half after Jan-Kez Moore and Staffon Chiles each hit corner 3’s.
West LA (20-8, 6-2) went on an 8-0 run after Canyons forward Anthony Simone was subbed out with 5:30 left in the first half to take a 26-25 lead.
Tied at 33-33, the Wildcats went on a 10-2 run coming out of halftime thanks to offensive rebounds and second-chance points.
Once again, Nwanguma answered with hard drives into the paint, getting fouled on back-to-back possessions to cut the lead to 43-41 and then tied it at 43-43 on a jumper with 14:51 left in the game.
Canyons allowed West LA to battle back and retake the lead on sloppy turnovers, but a Phipps 3-pointer regained the lead with 5:30 left.
Down the stretch, up 75-74 with under 1:30 left in the game, Canyons got a big block from Simone to keep the Cougars on top and Phipps sealed the game with a sequence of free throws.
Phipps scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed three rebounds, while Simone finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds two blocks and one assist.
“Honestly, it felt like we were on a whole different level,” Phipps said. “It just felt like everyone was getting their buckets, assists and making plays and that just made everyone play a lot better.”
Canyons plays its final regular season game at home against LA Pierce College at 5 p.m. on Friday.