Santa Ana College basketball spent their offseason with their eyes fixed on the home opener against Long Beach Community College. The Dons sought revenge for the previous five meetings, in which the Vikings controlled the narrative.
It was also the opening game of their annual Dana Pagett tournament, named after their former Hall of Fame head coach.
At the start of the first half, the Dons held close to their adversaries. Each team traded baskets until the Vikings went on a run, amounting to a 10-point lead.
At halftime, Long Beach outscored Santa Ana 49-41 and outshot them 55.6% to 49.5%. However, both teams were still rusty from three, shooting 18% and 16% respectively.
Dons head coach David Breig, in his 19th season, led his team out of the half on a 17-8 electric run, capped off with forward Kaden Minter’s 3-point shot to take the lead for the first time at 58-57.
Minter led the scoring for the Dons with 30 points while grabbing seven rebounds, and tallying an assist. He was also very efficient, shooting 64% from the field, 66% from three, and 90% from the free throw line.
“I don’t really care how many points I have,” said Minter. “I just want to get the win.”
Each team continued to trade blows throughout the second half, leading to an 86-86 tie in regulation which would send the game into overtime.
The energy deflated out of the building when the Vikings scored six straight points to take a 92-86 lead with only two minutes left in the game.
Mac West led a final charge late, hitting a clutch 3-pointer to cut the lead to one. He then got a steal on the defensive end with only 15 seconds left and got fouled.
The nervous crowd went silent as West went to the free-throw line down one. The energy quickly turned into excitement as he hit both of his shots to give the Dons a one-point lead. The Vikings, with 12 seconds left, settled for a contested last-second shot which missed.
West’s teammates crowded him with excitement for their first win of the year.
Their months of work leading to this game paid off.
“It feels great for the guys,” said coach Breig, “We are a young team and only have four returners [from last year]. This is a great character builder right here, showing we can win these close games and follow through with what we want to do.”
Unfortunately, Breig’s words didn’t echo loud enough for the Dons to carry them into their next game.
SAC fell victim to a trap in their second game of the tournament. They spent all offseason focused on their revenge over LBCC, only to lose to an inferior opponent in the following game.
“We’re not going to take nothin’ for granted,” said assistant coach Rob Wakefield, before the start of the game.
He was wrong.
After winning their season opener by one point in overtime, they collapsed in their second game and lost to Glendale College Vaqueros 77-73.
The Dons had 20 turnovers and 18 fouls.
“Every game is winnable. These young guys have got to grow up quickly. It came down to taking care of the ball.” said Breig. “I thought Glendale took care of the ball and our guards were sloppy.”
Despite their sloppiness, they stayed in the game due to their full-court press. They had eight steals as a team, four of which came from backup point guard Jimmy Williams.
“Some of our players got tired in the 2-2-1 [press] we had,” said point guard West. “We had a lot of turnovers. Also getting [them] in bonus late, we gave them free throws and free points. That really cost us.”
West led the team in scoring with 15 points, adding nine rebounds and three assists.
“They were sagging off me a little bit. I was wide open, so I’m gonna get mine,” said West.
In their season opener victory, West had 16 points, but was overshadowed by Minter.
On Saturday Minter had seven points on 3-8 shooting, missing both of his 3-point attempts.
Glendale prioritized making Minter uncomfortable, so that he wouldn’t catch fire like he did in their first game, and it worked.
“Don’t let 33 score 30 again. We’ll pressure them to get them out of their sets,” said Vaqueros head coach Vigen Jilizian.
The Vaqueros, down seven at halftime, decided to also press full-court. The Dons tried to counter by playing fast, which led to many of their turnovers.
“We played too fast…we need to play fast but not in a hurry, said Breig. “We had unforced errors. Every turnover counts as a point, so we gave them 20 points tonight.”
The Dons also missed six free throws in the second half, shooting an abysmal 54% from the line.
As a silver lining, freshman guard David Lewis gave great minutes off the bench, providing an offensive spark of 10 points in 15 minutes of play.
With 12 seconds left on the clock, the Dons had a chance to tie with a three-pointer from West, but took a heavily contested shot that resulted in an airball.
“I told the guys down there [in the locker room], I’d rather play like this now and not later. We’ll learn from this and get better,” said Breig.
The Dons look to correct their mistakes and get back on track at home against El Camino College on Wednesday, Nov. 8.