Citrus Men's Basketball played host to Long Beach City College for the CCCAA Southern California Regional Finals on Saturday. The Fighting Owls beat the Vikings in a tightly contested game by a score of 93-78. The win advances Citrus to the CCCAA State Championships where they will face College of the Sequoias at Ventura College on Thursday March 14th. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:00 PM.
Saturday's game was the first time Citrus and Long Beach faced off in 2018-2019. Both teams came off of conference championship seasons. Citrus was undefeated in Western State Conference East play, while Long Beach took the South Coast Conference title with a 9-1 mark.
Things started off a bit lopsided, as Citrus burst out of the gates, going up 13-4 in the first minutes of the game. But Long Beach gained its footing, outscoring the Owls 14-3 to gain an 18-16 lead that forced Citrus to make some adjustments on defense. The adjustments proved worthy, as Citrus built a lead near the end of the 1st half that would not be lost for the rest of the contest. The Owls would lead by as many as 21 points, and went into the halftime locker room in command of the game, leading 35-25.
The Vikings would push the Owls, scoring 53 in the 2nd half, but the Owls persevered, holding off the late Viking surge and sealing the victory.
Citrus posted solid numbers as a group, hitting 86.7% of its free throws to Long Beach's 51.6%, undoubtedly the biggest factor in the win. Citrus ranks #2 in the state in free throw percentage with a 77% mark. The Owls also outscored the visitors on turnover conversions, outpacing the Vikings 14-3. The depth of Citrus' bench also played a pivotal role, as it has all season, outscoring their adversaries 34-13 on the night. Citrus hit 34.8% of its three point shots, right at the season average for the group. The Owls are 5th in the state in three pointers made, averaging 10.6 per game.
Individually, Citrus had an exciting night as point guard Josh Caston broke the Citrus all time record for points scored in a single game with 48, as well as the record for free throws made in a single game with 24. Caston is #7 in the state in made free throws with 160, and 11th statewide in free throw percentage with 84.7% of his shots falling. Caston was 4 for 7 from the three point line. Psalm Maduakor broke his career high mark for points with 23, grabbing 12 rebounds to post a double double, his 7th of the season. Jesse Elrod recorded 9 points and 7 rebounds on the night.
The Owls look ahead to Thursday's matchup against College of the Sequoias at Ventura. The matchup is the first post season meeting of the two teams since the Owls beat the Giants en route to its last State Championship in 2007-2008.
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