When Santa Ana basketball stepped into Bill Cook Gymnasium on Monday evening, they knew they were lacing up for a marathon.
The Dons lost this game due to their erratic play. They had 23 turnovers and 25 fouls en route to a 93-90 loss to Chaffey College.
Chaffey averages 90 points per game (eighth in the state) and operates a high-paced offense that piggybacks off a suffocating full-court press. Not even the Dons, with four days’ preparation, could escape the Panthers’ press.
“We want to speed them up. We’re looking to outscore them. We want it to be 110-109. We have depth that nobody can hang with,” said Chaffey College assistant coach Mateu Vilakazi
The Dons’ philosophy for this game revolved around controlling the pace.
“We’re going to slow them down,” said Santa Ana assistant coach Rob Wakefield prior to tipoff. “They’re going to press us, so we need to break their pressure quickly. [We’ll run] 2-2-1, 1-2-2 full court.”
Santa Ana played from behind for the majority of the game. At the beginning of the first half, they held a five-point lead. However, with 10 minutes remaining, their debacle began.
In a two-minute span, they had three turnovers and one basket. Chaffey capitalized on the Dons’ errors, amounting to a 10-point lead. By halftime, the Panthers led by eight.
For the first 17 minutes of the second half, SAC fought to bring the game within single digits. Chaffey had built their way up to a 14-point lead and never let Santa Ana get within eight.
With about three minutes to go, guard Cam Johnson took over. The Panthers could not withstand Johnson’s physicality when he took the ball to the basket. He finished with 15 points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Johnson drew two fouls on separate drives to the basket, yet only made two of his four free throw shots.
“[Coach] told us in practice that they would play really fast, but you’ve gotta get on the court to know how fast they were playing,” said Johnson. “I missed two at the end of the game just from being tired.”
Despite these back-breaking misses, the Dons continued to claw back.
With 19 seconds left, guard David Lewis drove with his left hand and finished through contact for a basket plus the foul. He then proceeded to make the layup and bring the game within one.
Dons Forward Kaden Minter fouled Panthers guard Nate Simon with 13 seconds left.
Simon had a chance to bring the Chaffey lead to three, but was distracted by the shrieking screams of two little girls on the sidelines.
He air-balled one of the free throws.
SAC had a chance to hold the last possession of the game, down 90-88, with nine seconds left. However, Johnson drove to the basket and lost the ball in the defender’s arms.
In the split second after, Chaffey secured the steal, and Johnson committed a foul.
“To be honest, he played the move perfectly. I was more frustrated than anything. I felt like I let my team down,” said Johnson.
Once again, the Dons played in a hurry and it came back to haunt them.
“They sped us up. We had 23 turnovers. That’s how they survive. Our guards have to understand how to be fast but not in a hurry, said head coach David Brieg. “But we were right there. We played hard. That team is top 20 in the state. That shows where we are if we take care of the ball and make our free throws.”
Minter had 19 points and 16 rebounds, yet finished the game disappointed.
“I wanted to hit a few more shots in the second half to try and get us back,” said Minter. “I think, when we got the ball in the halfcourt, we were pretty good.”
Minter was 5/9 from three and 7/13 from the field.
The Dons leading scorer was forward Mac West, who pitched in 27 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
“I don’t know what their game plan was, but it was really easy to get to the paint. They don’t have shot blockers,” said West.
The Dons were also hurt by the loss of their starting point guard Terron Toney. He played 15 minutes in the first half but did not make an appearance due to the coach’s decision in the second half.
Without their starting point guard, the others were overworked and tired.
Up next, the Dons hit the road and travel to play Rio Hondo on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Rio Hondo is currently 0-2 and has been outscored by 35 points.