The Citrus Men's Basketball team are once again Western State Conference East Champions, after locking up the title outright in a 90-73 win over host Antelope Valley last night. This year's title marks the 8th ever Conference Championship for Citrus College Men's Basketball, and the 6th since joining the Western Sate Conference.
Head Coach Brett Lauer, who is in his second season as the Owls' General, has now clinched his 2nd conference title in as many years, posting an overall record of 49-11 for an .817 winning percentage. This places Lauer as the all time leader in coach winning percentage at Citrus.
The Owls have had a benchmark season as they have maintained top 10 state and regional rankings almost all year. After several setback losses, the Owls have consistently recovered and notched huge wins to stay amongst the best in the state this season.
One of the things Coach Lauer emphasizes with his players is that wins aren't to be taken for granted. "We like to treat wins like any other relationship, you need to show great appreciation for them or they will stop coming around. Also, wins are really hard to achieve, so when you earn a win you better show a lot of excitement." Lauer said.
As a team, Citrus is currently the state team leader in free throw percentage with a 76.9% rate; 2nd in 3PT field goals per game (11.7); 2nd in 3PT attempts per game (32.4); 5th in points (2432); and 9th in points per game (83.9).
Citrus has displayed remarkable team chemistry this season to achieve these numbers. When asked about the unique chemistry of his guys, Lauer added "Our team chemistry is so unique because of the guys we have in our program. They all love to compete and hate letting each other down. They have genuine excitement for each other's success, which has led to the success we've had as a group this year.
Citrus also has several players with high statistical rankings in the state, but maybe the most impressive individual this year is Jeremy Smith. Smith is the starting point guard for the Owls and has been integral to the success of the team this year. Smith currently sits at 3rd in the state in minutes (980) and free throws (157-183); 4th in games started (29), minutes per game (33.8) and points (618); 5th in assists (156); 7th in field goals (196-449); 8th in free throw percentage (85.8) and points per game (21.3).
The Fighting Owls are currently ranked #9 in the State CCCMBCA poll, a slight fall from previous weeks in a poll that does not take unranked losses lightly (and the Owls indeed have a couple of those). Regionally, the Owls are ranked possibly a little lower than they could be at the #5 spot, and would likely still be in the top 3 if it weren't for the remarkable winning ways of Orange Coast and Cerritos late in the season, and an untimely Citrus conference slip-up against LA Valley two weeks ago.
As the end of conference season nears, Coach Lauer will look to get his guys thinking of the most important things at hand. "Our focus right now is on how we can continue to get better heading into our game against Barstow on Saturday. It needs to be our best competitive effort of the season."
Citrus improves to 25-4 on the season, with a conference record of 8-1, and are undefeated at home. The Owls will wrap up conference play this Saturday as it hosts Barstow at home. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM.