Cougars men’s hoops falls flat despite strong start

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College of the Canyons men’s basketball fell to Bakersfield 64-60 in a bipolar contest Wednesday night at College of the Canyons.

“I don’t think we were ready to play,” said College of the Canyons head coach Howard Fisher.

The loss comes as a disappointment for Canyons (9-10 overall, 2-5 WSC South), especially after a strong win against West LA on Saturday night.

“We came off of a good win against West LA,” said freshman Christopher Bradford. “We tried to keep it up, but we got too comfortable with that lead, we let it slip away from us.”

The Cougars took a commanding lead early in the first half. They orchestrated a 20-6 run in the first 10 minutes highlighted by a Joel Carrillo four-point-play and capped off by a Zach Phipps jumper. However, the run ended there.

The Renegades (14-7, 2-5) stepped up on defense and figured it out on offense. The final 10 minutes of the half were used to claw into the Cougars’ lead. Bakersfield went on a 14-10 run led by Michael Guillory.

More: COC women’s hoops lose late against Bakersfield

“Last Saturday against West LA, we played with a whole lot of energy and determination,” Fisher said. “I don’t think we played with the same kind of energy and focus that we did in the last couple of games, wins or losses.”

Bradford and Carrillo made the comeback difficult for the Renegades, combining for seven points during the run. Both teams trotted to the locker room with Canyons leading 30-22.

The second half was a different story for the Cougars. A five-minute scoring drought to begin the second half foretold the ending of the game. During that drought, the Renegades fought back from down eight, to tie the game.

“We came out at halftime in a set play and didn’t run it right, twice,” Fisher said. “We just weren’t ready to play for whatever reason. I don’t think we came focused.”

From there, the Cougars fought to separate themselves once again, but Bakersfield had gained all of the momentum and took the lead on a Vince Damelio layup. The Renegades didn’t look back from that point and held onto the lead until the final buzzer.

The Cougars struggled to knock down shots after the first 10 minutes of the game. Bradford was the leading scorer and the only Cougars players to score double digits with 16 points.

“I’m just going to keep continuing to play hard to help us win,” Bradford said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes. We’ll get the next win for sure.”

Canyons struggled the most from the free-throw line. An aggressive Bakersfield defense sent shooters to the line often, but the Cougars couldn’t knock down their shots. They missed 10 free throws in crucial situations that could have tied or brought them back into striking distance.

“It’s very surprising,” Fisher said. “Hopefully Saturday we do a little bit better job.”

The Cougars will remain home for Saturday’s contest in a rematch against Antelope Valley. The game is at 7 p.m.

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