Riverside City College men’s basketball clinches tournament spot with conference title

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By Jesus Coronel

The Riverside City College men’s basketball team clinched the Orange Empire Conference title at the Wheelock Gym as they faced Cypress College on Feb. 25.

“It’s our second conference championship in a row,” said head coach Philip Mathews. “The team is coming together at the right time.”

The Tigers were hindered by a slow start but the defense helped the team gain momentum to control the game.

They forced offensive fouls and turnovers that were pivotal to their dominant first half, which included a 15-2 run midway through the half, led by sophomores Melvin Walker and Robert Ayala.

“We are a defensive team first so we have to focus on that before we go on offense,” Ayala said after the game.

The efforts paid off as the Tigers beat the Chargers 92-72.

“Everybody did their job in order to get this win,” Walker said. “We gotta lock-in from the beginning of the game all the way to the end.”

Twenty-one fouls were committed throughout the game, but Coach Mathews isn’t completely worried about it.

“We were pressing and a lot of the fouls were unnecessary,” he said. “They were playing hard so I don’t mind the fouls if they are playing hard.”

The 14-2 record ties Fullerton for first place in the conference, thus both teams share the championship. 

The Tigers are the 6 seed for the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California regional tournament and will await the winner between LA Southwest College and Copper Mountain College.

RCC will play their first game of the tournament on Mar. 3.

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