By Dalila Romero
The Riverside City College men’s basketball team defeated Los Angeles Southwest College 79-63 in the first round of the California Community College Athletic Association Southern Regional Playoffs at Wheelock Gym on Feb. 22.
With high stakes in the playoffs, the Tigers knew they had to create a game plan and execute.
“LA Southwest is a team that is very talented and although their record doesn’t show it, they have talented players,” Tigers head coach Philip Mathews said. “We knew going in that we would have to control this game’s tempo and our rebounding. We did both.”
The Cougars were disadvantaged due to lack of players coming off the bench. With only six players in rotation, their starting five would struggle to catch their breaths and cramping early on.
“Honestly having a large bench benefits us,” Tigers sophomore guard Jalen Monroe said. “It makes sure we are good and hydrated, they make sure to hold it down for us while we are out of the game.”
This roster advantage was noticed early as the Tigers were able to maintain control and set the tempo throughout the game.
Monroe led the Tigers with a total of 19 points.
“I wasn’t able to play in my sophomore night game last Thursday,” Monroe said. “So that put a lot of fire under me going into this playoff game.”
The Tigers kept the momentum going as they went into the locker room at halftime with a double digit lead.
“(Coach) said we had to keep our foot on their necks,” Tigers freshman guard Tomi Adesiji said. “We can’t get comfortable with the little lead.”
Riverside returned to the court motivated, looking to secure their ticket into the second round of the playoffs.
“All gas no breaks,” Monroe said. “Make sure we don’t let them come back into the game at all.”
The Tigers would keep their foot on the gas as they scored only one point less than they did in the first half.
“It was some of the best team play we had all year,” RCC sophomore forward Reggie Ward said.
Now the Tigers will shift focus to their next opponent.
“We play the number two seed on Saturday at their place, so we are going to have to play much better than we did tonight,” Mathews said. “I thought we played well tonight but we are going to have to play much better.”
RCC will head to East Los Angeles College to take on the Huskies in round two of the playoffs Feb. 25.