In the final game of the regular season for College of the Canyons men’s hoops, the Cougars pulled out all the stops in a 96-62 decisive victory over LA Pierce College at the Cougar Cage on Friday night.
From shooting the 3-ball with deadly accuracy to driving the lane and dominating down low, the Cougars did a little bit of everything to earn their fourth win in five games, finishing the season with a 14-14 overall record and a 5-3 Western State Conference, South record.
All five starters scored in double figures with freshman Zach Phipps leading the way, totaling 23 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one block.
Anthony Simone, Denzel Nwanguma and Jude Agbasi all finished their sophomore campaigns in style, celebrating a big team win with friends and family in attendance.
“We’ve all grown together really well as a group. We’ve all made a cool connection,” Simone said. “I’m glad we were able to do it and it really showed tonight. I’m going to miss this group a lot.”
“They had great energy in the first half and afforded us the opportunity at both ends of the floor to create a sizeable gap,” Canyons head coach Howard Fisher said about the trio of sophomores. “It worked out with the energy we had on the bench, it was infectious and everybody got a chance to score tonight, which is a great way to end the regular season.”
Nwanguma was a force on both ends of the court, finding his teammates for open looks to the tune of nine assists, while suffocating the Brahma Bulls on defense, logging five steals.
He also went 3-3 from beyond the arc, all in the second half, and finished with 15 points and added six rebounds.
“Coach made me become a pass-first guy and I came to love and enjoy the process of getting my guys open,” Nwanguma said. “I know it’s a team sport and it’s all going to come down to the point guard, I got to get my guys open and get them going.”
The Cougars started hot from the perimeter, making five straight 3-pointers after missing their first attempt of the game. They went 6-11 from downtown in the first half and finished the game 13-21, a whopping 61.9 percent clip.
Phipps went 4-6 on 3-pointers, Agbasi went 2-6 and freshman Jordan Nash went 1-2.
Freshman Chris Joo came off the bench and provided a spark, making the first 3-pointer of the game from the left corner. He finished with eight points and an assist. Freshmen Wil Clark and Josue Valencia also had an opportunity to get in the game late, each going 1-1 from downtown.
The hot shooting opened up the game for Simone, who was able to use his physicality to dominate in the paint. The 6-foot-7 bruiser finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“They’re very aggressive going to the rim and shooting the ball, so that spaces out the floor for me,” Simone said about COC’s guards. “They are very unselfish so they look for me a lot for easy layups and postups too. It makes it a lot easier for my game. I’m going to really miss playing with them.”
Nash logged 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals and Agbasi finished with 11 points, four rebounds, eight assists and a steal.
Finishing tied with Santa Monica with a 5-3 conference record and splitting the series with the Corsairs, the Cougars will await the seeding process next week to see if they make the playoffs. It will come down to the final RPI (rating percentage index) rankings.
Whether they qualify for the playoffs or not, Canyons ended the regular season on a high note, and Simone, for one, hopes to pass along that feeling to next year’s squad.
“I felt like we ended the season pretty positive, we almost put up 100 so it feels like a good way to end the season on a good note,” Simone said. “For our young guys coming in next year, they need that positive energy.”