MODESTO, Calif.- The Cosumnes River men's basketball team closed out the 76th MJC Tournament by taking fifth place, following the team's 80-76 victory over the Cuesta Cougars yesterday. The Hawks improved their record to 8-2 on the year, following a 3-1 performance over the past week in the tournament.
CRC entered the contest with only nine active players, a difficult task given the fact the team was playing its fourth game in five days. The Hawks came ready to play from the opening tip, taking a sizeable lead early in the first half, and would control the contest for the majority of the game. Cuesta only led the game once toward the end of the first half, but CRC quickly took back control, and wouldn't concede the lead for the remainder of the game.
Cosumnes River jumped out to an early double-digit lead, as the Hawks converted against the Cuesta zone, finding ways into the paint and making the most of their open looks. The Cougars quickly implemented a man-to-man defensive scheme looking for more success, however, the Hawks interior scored on consecutive possessions and they returned to zone. Sophomore Jaycob Velasco went five for five from the field, including one three-point field goal to help lead the Hawks. Cuesta converted transition opportunities off of poor transition defense by CRC, as they closed the gap to single digits late in the first half. At one point, Cuesta took a one-point lead at 33-32, but that was their only lead of the contest as CRC quickly took back control. Andrew Johnson converted on a layup at the buzzer for the second straight contest, as the Hawks took a 38-36 lead into the intermission.
The second half went much the same as first half, in that the Hawks opened up the game early on, pushing the Cougars deficit to double-digits. Cosumnes River's defensive pressure took the Cougars out of their comfort zone, as the team was forced put the ball on the floor more than they are used to. Cuesta made the most of their size advantage on the perimeter, posting up CRC's smaller guards and hitting challenged jump shots from the perimeter, as they closed the game to within single digits late. The Hawks had multiple opportunities to put Cuesta away for good, but timely shooting from the Cougars and missed free throws and turnovers by the Hawks gave the southern California team life, as they closed to within one possession with under a minute to play. However, sophomore post TJ Williams sealed the victory late for CRC on a pair of free throws, as Cosumnes River defeated Cuesta for 5th place in the tournament 80-76.
Williams led the Hawks with a double-double, scoring 18 points while grabbing 12 rebounds in the victory. Velasco had 22 points on an efficient night from the field, shooting 9 of 12 including two of two from the perimeter, while also grabbing seven rebounds in the game. Velasco was also named to the All-Tournament team, following four standout performances by the Chico native. Sophomore AJ Bridges scored 19 points while dishing out five assists for the Hawks. The Cougars were led offensively by sophomore guard Oscar Pedroso, who scored 24 points in the loss.
Cosumnes River (8-2) returns to action this week when they travel to Susanville, where they will participate in the 1st Annual Lassen College Classic. They open up with a rematch against host Lassen on Friday. The event will end on Sunday. The Hawks return home next month when they open Big 8 conference play.