College of the Canyons men’s basketball fell just short in its home non-league loss to the Cypress College Chargers.
Cypress won the game, 66-61, after holding off multiple big runs from Canyons.
The Chargers (5-6) led by nine in the first half and by as much as 13 in the second, but the Cougars (3-6) hung on and nearly stole the win.
COC took control of the game in the second half, where the team rode a 10-0 run back into the game. Canyons’ work for easier shots finally started paying off as the team moved the ball well during the run. The Cougar defense shined brightest on the other side of the court as the team held the Chargers to one field goal for nine minutes of play midway through the second half.
“We had some really good defensive possessions, some really good offensive possessions and then some not so good,” said Cougars coach Howard Fisher. “I think we were climbing back into the game. A couple of times it was three or four points and then we gave up an offensive rebound and they hit threes.”
Late in the game, COC forward Jonah El-Farra worked his way inside for a score to cut the Cypress lead to just two points but the Cougars couldn’t knock down a go-ahead shot.
El-Farra finished the night with nine points, eight boards and two assists.
Freshman Isaiah Ortega missed back-to-back triples that would’ve given Canyons its first lead since early in the first half. However, Ortega had a smooth backdoor pass that gave forward Mason Savery an easy dunk that cut the deficit to three points with just over a minute to go.
Free throws were the name of the game late as both teams played physically, putting one another in the bonus.
Cypress forward Allen Wright did most of his damage at the free throw line and in the second half. Wright scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the second and was nearly perfect from the charity stripe, where he went 11-for-12.
Forward Joshua Barnett led Canyons with 14 points, despite having his worst day from behind the arc after finishing 1-for-9. Freshman guard Raz Orbach also gave COC a huge boost via a double-double. Orbach added 10 points and as many rebounds, including six off the offensive glass.
Canyons outrebounded Cypress 42-23, but just couldn’t get enough balls into the basket as the team finished the day 37.3% from the floor and shot 20% from the perimeter.
“We out rebounded them by 19,” Fisher said. “I think it was just the key points where we were making runs, got the rebound and put it back. That was frustrating for us.”
Freshman Jeremiah Walker also had a solid day off the bench for the Cougars, scoring seven points, hitting two 3-balls, along with four rebounds.
The Chargers led by four at halftime and built upon their lead right away after hitting three straight shots from behind the arc to open up the second half. Cypress finished the game 10-for-32 on 3-point baskets.
“The defensive rebounds were there but there were a couple of points we didn’t get to rotations fast enough and again, they hit 10 threes,” Fisher said.
“I don’t think we played with the level of urgency that we needed to,” Fisher said. “We started out and played at several points during the game with malaise. We did some good things at points, but we have yet to string 40 minutes together of consistency.”
COC has had an up-and-down start to the year. The team opened up the season with back-to-back wins but dropped five straight games to follow. Canyons will look to keep improving with a few more games slated before Western State Conference play begins.
“It’s junior college, it’s a different level and they have to understand that there’s a step up in competition,” Fisher said. “There’s a different level of athleticism, expectation, and we’re trying to meet those needs. We held them to 66 points so I think the defensive effort was there.”
The Cougars return home to host the Rio Hondo Roadrunners on Friday at 6 p.m.
Cypress has now won three straight games and will also return home Friday to host L.A. Southwest College.