Just What They Needed?
Santa Clarita, CA -- While it arguably didn't have much bearing on the Owls' post-season status, Friday's win over host College of the Canyons in the Championship Game of the inaugural WSC South Tournament may be important for other reasons. The 77-71 may be just what the Owls' needed as they turn their focus to the playoffs starting next week.
The game was neck and neck from the get go with two lead changes and five of the six first half ties coming in the first eight minutes of the contest. Sophomore Steven Thornton Jr. scored Citrus' first three points to stake them to an early 3-2 lead.
Canyons would take the lead for themselves shortly thereafter, but Thornton gave the Owls the lead back with a three tied the game up at 12 all with a three and then gave Citrus a 14-12 lead after a jumper. The Cougars tied the game back up at 14-14 on their next possession, but Thornton made it seven straight points moments later with a steal and lay-in that put the Owls back up 16-14.
The Owls clung to that lead for the next six minutes until Canyons rallied back and tied the game back up at 27 all with just over five minutes left in the half. Citrus used a mini 8-0 run though to jump back out in front, and keep the Cougars at arms length over the remained of the half to go into the break with a 37-35 lead.
Canyons would knot the game up yet again on their first possession of the second half, but the Owls used another small run, this time 7-0 to go back out on top 44-37. Citrus' lead would stick in that range, with it briefly reaching double digits after a conventional three point play from sophomore Kerry Carter with 11:41 to go made it 58-47.
The Cougars didn't slink away though, rallying late and coming back to within two points with 1:49 on the clock. The Owls defense ratcheted up in the final minute holding the Cougars to a turnover and a pair of missed three's, while Thornton Jr. hit a big trey that put Citrus up 76-71 with 27 seconds left. Freshman Darius Middleton would put even more space between Citrus and Canyons with the front end of two free-throws that put Citrus at the final total of 77 points.
Thornton Jr. was the MVP for the Owls scoring a season high 27 points in the regular season finale. Carter added 16, while freshman Therique Card also had a season high with 10. Freshman Darius Middleton handed out eight assists, and sophomore Gregory Sequele reeled in a team high six rebounds.
With the win, Citrus' 2012-2013 regular season ends with a 15-10 record and 8-4 mark in WSC South play. The Owls won't know what awaits them until the Southern California seeding meeting on Monday afternoon. The brackets should be out sometime around 2:00 PM. Stay tuned to www.citrusowls.com for all of your Owls playoff coverage and news.