Lasers open Southern Regional Playoffs with a statement win
The Irvine Valley men's basketball team put a halt to its three-game losing streak, but even more importantly moved on in the CCCAA Southern Regional Playoffs.
The eighth-seeded Lasers defeated No. 9-seed San Bernardino Valley, 63-50, in a playoff quarterfinal game Friday night at Irvine Valley. Defense was the key.
The Lasers held San Bernardino Valley 21.5 points under its season scoring average. The 50 points was the lowest total the Wolverines have scored this season. The team's previous low was 55 in a 61-55 loss to IVC rival Saddleback. San Bernardino Valley shot just 37.7 percent (20 of 53) from the floor, 18.2 percent (2 of 11) from three-point range and 40 percent (8 of 20) from the free throw line in the game.
And the Lasers helped hold San Bernardino Valley's best player and the Foothill Conference MVP Keon Pledger to just 4 of 21 shooting on the night. Pledger, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, finished with only 12.
"It was the best defense we've played all year," IVC Coach Jerry Hernandez said. "We were worried because they are so talented. We just tried to make them take tough shots. I thought Joe (Eberhard) and Ramon (Mejia) did a nice job on Pledger for most of the game."
Irvine Valley was much more efficient, shooting 47.2 percent (25 of 53) from the floor and 40.0 percent (8 of 20) from three-point range. The Lasers never trailed in the game. The contest was tied, 2-2, early on, but then Irvine Valley went on a 10-1 run.
A jumper by sophomore forward Sean Donovan gave the Lasers a 12-3 lead with 14:18 left in the first half. Another big run put IVC comfortably ahead. The Lasers went on a 16-3 run and took a 33-13 lead on a three-point play by freshman forward Yanick Kulich with 5:11 left in the first half.
But those were the final points IVC scored in the first half. San Bernardino Valley closed on a 12-0 run to make it a 33-25 game at halftime. The Wolverines got within 41-34 on two free throws by Pledger early in the second half.
But IVC's lead was back up to double digits (44-34) after Mejia made a three-pointer with 13:07 to play. And soon after, Irvine Valley put the game out of reach with a 7-2 spurt. As part of the run, Mejia made another three-pointer and Eberhard and Donovan each finished lay-ups.
The Lasers led, 55-40, with 6:59 to play. San Bernardino Valley didn't get closer than 13 points the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Travis Fulton was the star for Irvine Valley, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Freshman guard Kalob Hatcher added 13 points and three assists, Donovan had 10 points and Mejia and Eberhard each contributed nine points in the win.
"We got contributions from everyone," Hernandez said. "We played really, really well." Irvine Valley, which improved its record to 22-7 overall, moves on to the regional semifinals next Wednesday.
The Lasers will play the winner of Saturday night's Long Beach City and Mt. San Antonio game. Mt. SAC is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Box Score