East County

Coyotes land two hoops scholarships

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (5-18-06) -- Among the five sophomores named to the All-Pacific Coast Conference first team in men's basketball this past season, two played for Cuyamaca College. And both recently accepted full-ride scholarships.

Point guard MARLON PIERCE (Helix High) has accepted an offer from Div. II CSU-San Bernardino, while shooting guard JAMES FRANCISCO (Montgomery High) will play at the next level for Chaminade University in Maui, Hawai'i.

"It's an excellent opportunity for two players who have grown and played so well for our program," said Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "They are easily the best pair of shooters to play together at the same time for our program."

Pierce, along with the first-team laurels, was also the Co-Player of the Year in the PCC, sharing the honor with Palomar sophomore Manny Alcala, and was an honorable mention All-state performer for the Coyotes.

"Marlon can step in and contribute immediately for San Bernardino," noted Wojtkowski. "He has an all-around game and their coaches are high that he can come in to run the show as their point guard."

Meanwhile, Francisco will head to the Islands to play for the NAIA power Silverswords.

"James might be the best shooting guard we've ever had," noted the Cuyamaca coach. "Chaminade has been on him since September."

"Since he's older, he had to play for an NAIA school, but now he'll get a chance to play on television in the Maui Classic against three Division I teams which is good for him."

Francisco is a business major.

Pierce shares conference honors

East County Sports.com
SAN MARCOS (2-24-06) -- Cuyamaca College guard MARLON PIERCE, a product of Helix High School, was named along with Palomar guard Manny Alcala as co-players of the year in the Pacific Coast Conference for the 2005-06 season.

Pierce, one of the conference's leading scorers all season at 14.5 points per contest, demonstrated his abilities on both offense and defense, leading the PCC in steals and helping the Coyotes advance to the state playoffs.

Pierce and Alcala, the PCC assists leader, were joined on the first team by the Coyotes' JAMES FRANCISCO, the circuit's top scorer at 18.8 points per outing, along with E.J. Ross (Palomar), Cornel Williams (San Diego City), Mytrell Foreman (Southwestern), Deveon Jenkins (Imperial Valley) and Ricky Martinez (MiraCosta).

Second team honorees included Grossmont guard GERRED LINK, who ranked among the top 3-point shooters in the conference, and Cuyamaca forward ERIK JOHNSON. They were joined by G.P. Wells (Palomar), Ben Thompson (Imperial Valley), James Milt (San Diego Mesa), Josh Gordon (Southwestern) and T.J. Johnson (Imperial Valley).

Grossmont also claimed a pair of honorable mention berths in sophomores MICHAEL FITZHUGH and TROY VALENCIA, along with Cuyamaca guard NATE REED (El Cajon Valley HS).

Gauchos oust Cuyamaca in first round

East County Sports.com
MISSION VIEJO (2-23-06) -- Cuyamaca College’s foray into the COA state basketball playoffs ended nearly as quickly as it started, as host Saddleback led from start to finish in an easy 67-45 romp in Wednesday’s (Feb. 22) play-in game to the Southland regional.

The 13th-seeded Gauchos (22-8) jumped out to a quick 13-4 lead en route to a 34-17 halftime advantage, as freshman forward Gerard Anderson collected 11 points and 12 rebounds before the intermission. Anderson finished with 15 in both categories.

Cuyamaca, the 20th and final seed to the tournament, tried to take advantage of its outside shooting strength, but that game plan didn’t work as the Coyotes were a dismal 5-for-30 from the field (16 percent), including 1-of-10 from behind the arc.

For the ballgame, Cuyamaca’s four big men accounted for just 13 points and 19 rebounds combined, as neither half of the offense could click. Meanwhile, Saddleback center Kevin Smith dominated inside, scoring 23 points and grabbing eight boards.

MARLON PIERCE was the only Cuyamaca player able to connect from the floor, hitting on 8-of-14 shots for a team-best 19 points,. However, no one else could crack double-figures, as the rest of the Coyotes made just 10-of-45 shots (22 percent). BRANDON DeGREGORIO added eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.

The Coyotes, the Pacific Coast Conference runner-ups, finish the season with a solid 18-13 overall record. Meanwhile, Saddleback will advance to face No. 4 Los Angeles City College on Saturday at 7 p.m. Palomar, the other PCC entrant to the playoffs, also fell, dropping a 96-90 decision at Mt. San Antonio.

Cuyamaca sneaks into the postseason

East County Sports.com
SACRAMENTO (2-20-06) -- The Commission on Athletics, the governing body for community college sports in California, announced the field for the 2005-06 state men's basketball championships -- a field of 32 schools which includes Cuyamaca College.


The Coyotes were the final team to be included in the South Regional, gaining the 20th and final seed.

"We're just happy to be included," said Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "It means a lot to be in the tournament, and it means a lot to the Pacific Coast Conference."

As the bottom seed, the Coyotes will meet the toughest ballclub among the eight teams participating in Wednesday's (Feb. 22) play-in contests to gain a berth into the main draw. They will travel to Mission Viejo to meet No. 13 Saddleback at 7 p.m.

"Southern California has a bunch of good teams, so to be included among them says something for our program," added the coach. "We're very happy and we'll just see what happens."

The Gauchos are familiar with PCC competition this season, visiting El Cajon in early December to capture the Grossmont Invitational championship. Meanwhile, Cuyamaca moved up a notch to place second in the PCC standings this season, finishing 18-12 overall, 10-4 in conference.

PCC titlist Palomar was the only other local ballclub to gain a postseason berth, also opening with a play-in game on the road against Mr. San Antonio.

Cuyamaca's flat finish could flounder future

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (2-19-06) -- Entering the week, Cuyamaca held its own destiny to both capture the Pacific Coast Conference and a berth to the Southern Californian regional playoffs.

Now all the Coyotes can do is hope for the best.

After getting nipped in a first-place showdown contest with Palomar on Wednesday, Cuyamaca came out flat and displayed one of its poorest shooting displays of the season in falling to visiting San Diego City College, 68-55, in Saturday's (Feb. 18) regular-season finale.

"We got back into the ballgame and tied them, but then we couldn't make any shots once again," said Coyotes coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI.

The Knights built a 13-point lead in the first half, finally taking a 31-21 lead to the locker room for halftime. Cuyamaca came back and briefly moved in front at 49-48, but then the poor-shooting bug returned, as the Coyotes' three starting guards combined to shoot just 9-for-43 from the floor.

MARLON PIERCE paced Cuyamaca with 16 points and six assists, while ERIK JOHNSON connected for 13 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

San Diego City (17-15, 7-7), the preseason favorites in the conference, finished in a tie for fourth with Southwestern. The Knights placed five players in double-figures scoring, led by 16 points from Cody Gatton.

Despite finishing second and owning the best overall record in the PCC, Cuyamaca (18-12, 10-4) is on the bubble for a postseason berth, which is based on a complicated power ranking formula. According to Wojtkowski, three teams might hold an edge over the Coyotes for the final playoff positions, including College of the Canyons, East Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

To show how close the competition is, Canyons and East L.A. handed Cuyamaca consecutive losses -- the latter in overtime -- in mid-November, while Grossmont fell to the same schools each time by just three points.

Southwestern 83, Grossmont 67 Photo Gallery -- The Jaguars' long, disappointing season turned around too late to make an impact in the standings, yet Southwestern still gained a share of fourth place after mounting a 30-point lead en route to downing the host Griffins.

Mytrell Foreman (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Nick Madsen (20 points, 10 boards), each registered double-doubles, leading the Jaguars to a 49-21 halftime lead, then expanding the margin to 60-30 count when Josh Gordon fed an alley-oop pass to Foreman for a slam dunk with 15:34 remaining.

The Griffins mounted a serious rally to trim the deficit to 11 points to 70-59, but Southwestern answered with nine straight points to place a cap on the season for both teams.

GERRED LINK and TROY VALENCIA, both sophomores making their final appearances for the Griffins, led the team with 18 and 16 points, respectively.

Grossmont finishes at 8-20 overall, 4-10 in the PCC to tie MiraCosta for sixth place.

Palomar claims PCC title at Coyotes' expense

East County Sports.com
SAN MARCOS (2-16-06) -- It's hard to believe that the playmaking skills of Manny Alcala went with so little success at Mt. Carmel High School. And without any scholarship offers, the guard helped lead Palomar College to the Pacific Coast Conference crown.

In a showdown between the top two teams in the conference, Alcala registered seven of his game-high 10 assists in the second half, to lead the Comets past Cuyamaca College, 85-80, to clinch the title Wednesday (Feb. 15) at Palomar Dome.

"When I first came here, I didn't think we could win with only two sophomores," said Alcala. "I thought we'd be good next year."

Instead, Alcala directed Palomar back from a 20-11 first-half deficit to knot the contest at 33-all by the half, then the teams exchanged the lead 10 times before Alcala went on a sequence of key passes.

Trailing 70-67 with four minutes remaining, Alcala twice penetrated the Coyotes defense into the paint, then dished to the corner for consecutive 3-balls by G.P. Wells and E.J. Ross, the former high school teammates from Virginia.

Ross then capped a 29-point performance with a steal for a breakaway layin, leading to a 3-point play after being fouled with 1:36 left, then a drive to the bucket for another layin after Cuyamaca committed another of its 14 second-half turnovers down the stretch.

"We spent a lot of time looking at film of Cuyamaca," said Ross. "But when we played them, they didn't do anything different from the last time we played. That made it a lot easier because we knew what to expect, and we knew what we had to do to beat them."

"So when Manny made the pass, the whole team had a lot of confidence so I knew I would hit."

NATE REED also pulled the game out for the Coyotes, scoring on a steal and downcourt pass by MARLON PIERCE for the layin, then sinking a 3-ball off a nice JAMES FRANCISCO pass to cut Palomar's lead to 82-78 with 22.1 seconds to go. However, the Comets sank 6-of-7 foul shots in the final minute to keep Cuyamaca at bay.

Reed scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, Francisco scored 17 points, while Pierce finished with 15 points and eight assists.

The balanced scoring also saw RYAN SHUMAKER contribute 11 points and eight rebounds, including a string of five straight baskets without a miss, as the Coyotes shot 57 percent (18-for-32) in the second half.

However, Wells scored 21 of his game-best 29 points in the second half, when the Comets put 52 points on the scoreboard.

Cuyamaca, which clinches second place following a third-place finish in the PCC a year ago, closes the regular season Saturday (Feb. 18) by hosting San Diego City at 7 p.m.

Spartans spike Griffins

East County Sports.com
OCEANSIDE (2-16-06) -- TROY VALENCIA, who shared Pacific Coast Conference Player of the Week honors with Cuyamaca's MARLON PIERCE, was one of four Griffins to reach double figures with 17 points as Grossmont College dropped an 87-67 decision Wednesday night (Feb. 15) at MiraCosta College.

GERRED LINK, who hit four threes on his way to 14 points, MIKE FITZHUGH (13) and STEVEN COLLINS completed the Grossmont double digit contingent.

The Griffins (8-19, 4-9 PCC) led 32-30 at halftime, but hit a lengthy scoring dry spell in the second half as they lost to the Spartans (9-20, 4-9 PCC) for the second time.

MiraCosta hit nine 3-pointers -- six in the second half -- and made 18-of-21 free throws. The Griffins were a paltry 9-of-18 from the charity stripe.

"Our unforced errors really cost us," Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said. "They were just better -- ran their stuff and didn't turn it over."

Grossmont concludes the season by hosting Southwestern Saturday (Feb.18) at 5 p.m.

Coyotes make title bid at Palomar

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (2-12-06) -- Cuyamaca College sophomore MARLON PIERCE is probably the best guard in the Pacific Coast Conference. Without doubt, the muscular 6-foot-2 backcourt giant ranks high on the all-time list of Coyotes coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI.

Pierce was at the forefront again Saturday night (Feb. 11), pouring in a game-high 25 points as Cuyamaca clubbed visiting Imperial Valley 82-70.

"He's been solid for us for two years," said Wojtkowski. "He is a really good point guard who is going to get a full scholarship after this season."

Pierce was pretty good in pointing the second-place Coyotes (18-10, 10-2 PCC) past the Arabs (7-5, 10-17 PCC) in a game that was closer than the final score.

"What we do is play really good defense," said Pierce, a Helix High product who leads the PCC in steals, stands second in assists and averages more than 14 points per game. "The turning point against IVC is when we turned to a zone with six minutes left in the first half. They seemed confused, because we almost always play 'man.'"

The major effect was Imperial Valley was forced to change offensive strategy.

"They couldn't run the screen and roll that they hurt us with the last time we played them," Pierce said.

A pull-up jumper by Pierce helped Cuyamaca open up a 10-point spread in the final two minutes.

JAMES FRANCISCO punched in 21 points and 7 assists for the Coyotes, who also received 11 points and 4 key rebounds from guard NATE REED.

Dead ahead is a conference title showdown between the Coyotes and first-place Palomar (15-11, 11-1 PCC) Wednesday (Feb. 15) in San Marcos at 7 p.m.

"At the beginning of the year we talked about having a 20-win season as our goal," Pierce said. "We have a chance to reach that goal, win a conference championship and get a decent seeding in the state playoffs."

Palomar won the first-round meeting 90-81.

"They beat us pretty badly at our house," Pierce admitted. "Now we have a chance to return the favor."

"We control our own destiny," Wojtkowski said. "The bottom line is we have to beat Palomar before we look any farther ahead."

Griffins enjoy scoring fest

East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (02-12-06) -- STEVEN COLLINS, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard out of Temecula Valley High, ignited a Grossmont College scoring spree with a career-high 29 points Saturday (Feb. 11) as the visiting Griffins mauled San Diego Mesa, 115-92, in a Pacific Coast Conference contest.

Grossmont (8-18, 4-8 PCC) stormed to a 64-42 halftime lead, which is interesting in itself considering the Griffins are averaging only 63 points per game.

The Griffins netted 47 field goals, shooting well above the 50 percent mark. They included a trio of three-pointers and 18-of-27 free throws in their season-high offensive output.

"Mesa presses and traps the whole game," Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said. "They aren't concerned with giving up a layup as much as they are about shooting threes."

Although the Griffins swept the two-game season series form the Olympians (3-22, 2-10 PCC), Mesa did burn Grossmont for 20 treys.

"I'm not sure just who invented this style of play, but I believe the objective is to tire the other team out," Weber said. "I know our guys were loving it in the first half when they were getting layups. But I also know most of them were in need of more rest late in the second half."

Fortunately for Grossmont, the Griffins have 14 players on their roster.

MIKE FITZHUGH (19), TROY VALENCIA (17) and CASEY HIGHT (17) joined Collins in the double figures column.

Grossmont concludes the season next week with games at MiraCosta on Wednesday (Feb.15) and at home to Southwestern on Saturday (Feb.18). The home finale against the Jaguars tips off at 5 p.m.

Cuyamaca preps for big finish by whipping Mesa

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (2-9-06) -- Cuyamaca College prepared for its two biggest games of the season by jumping to a 14-0 lead out of the gate Wednesday (Feb. 8), quickly putting away San Diego Mesa, 101-74, in a Pacific Coast Conference doubleheader held at Grossmont College.

The victory puts Cuyamaca in position to garner at least a share of the PCC crown with a sweep heading down the homestretch of the regular season schedule. The second-place Coyotes (17-10 overall, 9-2 PCC) host third-place Imperial Valley on Saturday, then goes to conference leading Palomar next Wednesday (Feb. 15).

MARLON PIERCE tallied 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half, while NATE REED hit the game's first two shots for five quick points en route to his 13 points, as the Coyotes didn't allow a field goal over the game's opening five minutes to build leads of 14-0 and 15-3.

Following Reed's early points, JAMES FRANCISCO hit the first of his four 3-point shots in his 12-point performance, then Pierce scored six straight points, driving through the paint for a layin, adding a free throw, then bombing a long triple to lead by two touchdowns.

Nine different Coyotes scored at least seven points, including ERIC JOHNSON with 12 and LUKE KELLEY with 11.

Mesa missed more than 40 shots from beyond the arc to shoot themselves out of the ballgame early, as the Cuyamaca lead reached 21 points with 7:37 still remaining in the first half at 36-15.

Cuyamaca's 101 points fell just one short of the team's season best; they also tagged Mesa for triple figures in the first round during a 102-87 triumph in Kearny Mesa.

Imperial Valley 71, Grossmont 67 -- The tiring Griffins failed to keep up with the Arabs on the boards in the closing minutes, allowing too many second-chance opportunities to allow a late lead to slip away.

Grossmont built a 6-point lead with 7:58 remaining on a strong transition play. MICHAEL FITZHUGH stole the ball and quickly passed to MAURICE CLADY, who bulleted a long pass to JAMES HALEY for a slam dunk and a 54-48 lead.

Then problems on the boards allowed IVC to score eight points on three putbacks, two resulting in fouls for 3-point plays during a 16-4 run to give the Arabs a 64-48 advantage with 3:37 left.

Grossmont reclaimed the lead at 67-66 on a 12-footer by Fitzhugh with 56.6 seconds left. Imperial Valley missed a go-ahead shot, but during the battle on the boards for the loose ball, guard James Hughes, who was fighting through a miserable 1-5 shooting outing, make two key plays.

Hughes joined the collage of big men and tipped the ball out to the point to retain possession. Two passes later, Hughes received a crosscourt feed for a 3-ball from the corner and the lead for keeps with 20 seconds left.

The Griffins had one last chance but missed on a shot by GERRED LINK with 0:05 remaining, as IVC scored in the final seconds on a goal-tending violation to barely maintain its share of third place.

"I'm totally okay with Gerred taking that shot," Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said. "He's our most consistent player right now, and he's made shots like that before. He's a good decision maker."

Fitzhugh paced Grossmont (7-18, 3-8) with 16 points, Link registered 10 points and three assists, CASEY McROBERTS-HIGHT drained three treys for his nine points, while TROY VALENCIA posted eight points and 11 boards.

Coyotes make the move to Fletcher Hills

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (2-7-06) -- The Cuyamaca College men's basketball team announced it has moved Wednesday's (Feb. 8th) game against Pacific Coast Conference rival San Diego Mesa to the gymnasium at Grossmont College.

The contest will now start at 5 pm. and be part of a PCC doubleheader, which will be followed at 7 p.m. by the already scheduled contest between the host Griffins and the Imperial Valley Arabs.

Cuyamaca claims defensive struggle with MiraCosta
East County schools splits pair of road games in North County

East County Sports.com
OCEANSIDE (2-5-06) -- It was a tough-shooting night for Cuyamaca College, yet the Coyotes played even better defense in outlasting host MiraCosta, 58-52, in Saturday's (Feb. 4) Pacific Coast Conference triumph. The victory maintains the team's second-place position, one full game behind Palomar, which romped over Grossmont, 99-69.

JAMES FRANCISCO and MARLON PIERCE powered Cuyamaca with 15 points each, even though both players made just 4-of-14 shots from the floor. CLINTON SHELTON added 11 points, but it was his work on defense which kept Cuyamaca in the lead throughout the second half.

Shelton limited opposing center Mark Sammons to just three points, while Shelton hauled down 12 rebounds to pace both teams.

"The defense made much improvement since our last game," noted satisfield Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI, who saw MiraCosta make just 15 buckets all contest. "And Shelton did a great job on their big guy."

Spartans guard Ricky Martinez, the team's lone returning All-PCC performer, led the game with 16 points, while team scoring leader Marin Modic, who missed several weeks with an injury, came back to register 14 points -- the lone MiraCosta players to reach double figures because of the Coyotes' defense.

Cuyamaca has two more contests before gaining its rematch with Palomar for the conference title. The first will be a 5 p.m. special Wednesday at home against pesky San Diego Mesa.

Fitzhugh scores 20 but Griffs fall to Comets

East County Sports.com
SAN MARCOS (2-5-06) -- MIKE FITZHUGH came up big for Grossmont College's men's basketball squad Saturday(Feb. 4) night, scoring 20 points on the road against Palomar.

It was not enough.

The Comets, who lead the Pacific Coast Conference by themselves, turned back the Griffins, 99-68, for their eighth straight victory and 11th win in their last 13 games as E.J. Ross (17 points) led four players in double figures.

Fitzhugh, breaking lose to score uncontested buckets inside, scored 13 points in the second half. CASEY McROBERTS-HIGHT added three 3-pointers and a free throw in the final 14:28. But it wasn't enough for Grossmont (7-17, 3-7 PCC) to overcome a 44-26 Palomar halftime lead.

McRoberts-Hight (12 points) and TROY VALENCIA (11 points) joined Fitzhugh in double figures for the Griffs.

For Palomar, John Hotaling (15 points), Uros Vukovich (13 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) and Chris Jackson (10 points) also scored in double figures. Manny Alcala dished off nine assists.

Palomar 99, Grossmont 69. Scoring: Fitzhugh (G) 20, Ross (P) 17. Rebounds: Vukovich (P) 12. Assists: Alcala (P) 9. Records: Palomar (13-11, 9-1), Grossmont (7-17, 3-7).

Griffins, Coyotes each can't get final shots, both fall by a basket

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (2-2-06) -- A week to the day after both Grossmont and Cuyamaca community colleges posted identical scores in pulling out 2-point victories, the schools nearly pulled off the same feat Wednesday (Feb. 1st) -- but both were 2-point losses in Pacific Coast Conference action.

In situations where both teams needed to pull the trigger on last-second shots to force overtime, neither side was able to create shots in time, as the Griffins fell to visiting San Diego City, 65-63, while the Coyotes dropped a 67-65 decision against Southwestern.

San Diego City 65, Grossmont 63 -- A 25-point scoring effort by sophomore guard GERRED LINK went to waste by the Griffins, which had three chances to take a go-ahead shot in the final 30 seconds to rally from a 14-point deficit, but the team suffered a turnover each time.

Trailing 51-37 with 9:40 to play, Link scored 17 of his points in the second half, including 11 points during an 18-8 stretch following the biggest deficit to cut the Knights' lead to 59-55 with 2:51 left.

TROY VALENCIA scored seven of his nine points in the final three minutes, including a 3-point play to cut the margin to 61-58 with 2:17 to go, as guard MAURICE CLADY recorded the last of his season-high nine assists.

Valencia also added a pair of foul shots with 44 seconds on the clock to halve SDCC's lead to 63-61, but the Griffins never took another shot until there were five seconds left because of turnovers, but stayed in the contest as the Knights made just two of their last six foul shots to keep the door open.

Link drained five treys for his best scoring performance since November. San Diego City received 17 points, including four treys, by David Brower.

SDCC (14-13 overall, 4-5 PCC) led at the half, 34-29, as Grossmont stayed close as STEVEN COLLINS scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half to overcome 37-percent shooting by the team in the opening 20 minutes.

Rebounding was also a factor in the second half, as City, which registered just a single offensive board in the first half, grabbed 10 offensive caroms after the intermission, offsetting 53 percent shooting by the Griffins in the second half.

Southwestern 67, Cuyamaca 65 -- The Coyotes fumbled away their share of first place in the Pacific Coast Conference, hampered by the absence of a key performer.

Cuyamaca severely missed center RYAN SHUMAKER, who missed his third straight contest after taking a blow to the face against Palomar. His lack of presence was especially felt on the boards, when a key offensive rebound as the final seconds were ticking away gave the Jaguars the win.

Down the stretch, Southwestern drained a 3-ball to take a 63-61 lead, but MARLON PIERCE, who led Cuyamaca with 16 points, sank a pair of foul shots to tie the game with 27 seconds remaining.

The Jags then tried another 3-point shot but missed, but Southwestern grabbed the loose ball and scored on the putback with 1 second left.

Cuyamaca, which also received 15 points from JAMES FRANCISCO, called a timeout to try to setup a 94-foot play, but couldn't get a shot off in time.

Meanwhile, Palomar (12-11 overall) downed Imperial Valley, 76-65, to raise its PCC ledger to 8-1, one full game ahead of Cuyamaca (15-10, 7-2).

Cuyamaca center Clinton Shelton (in black) rejects the shot of Grossmont's Andrew Steudle for one of his eight blocks in the Coyotes' 73-65 win over their district rivals.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Reed rescues own game and Coyotes in two bold thrusts

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (1-29-06) -- Cuyamaca College guard NATE REED was the first to admit his performance wasn't up to his own standards. A single point via a foul shot, a steal and a blocked shot were the lone highlights on his ledger entering the final two minutes of Saturday's (Jan. 28) game at district rival Grossmont.

"I was off all game, especially on defense," acknowledged Reed, the Coyotes' point man. "I needed to make something happen."

Reed's timing couldn't have been more perfect, scoring seven points over the final 82 seconds to give Cuyamaca a 73-65 decision over the Griffins. The victory maintains the Coyotes' share of first place with Palomar in the Pacific Coast Conference.

Cuyamaca was on the verge of blowing its lead when the Griffins rallied from a 10-point, second-half deficit to catch Cuyamaca at 59-all. But Reed came through with back-to-back thefts -- both in the backcourt -- to ignite the Coyotes.

After tapping the ball away from a Grossmont player to teammate JAMES FRANCISCO, Reed immediately accepted the return pass and drained a 3-point shot for a 62-59 lead with 1:22 remaining. Seconds later, Reed got a hand on the inbounds pass, firing the ball to Francisco in the far corner for another 3-pointer, as the Coyotes bench erupted after scoring six points in six seconds

"I just read where their guard was going and made my move," explained Reed, a freshman out of El Cajon Valley High. "Even though Grossmont is good, we know how to keep our composure and run our plays."

Reed and ERIK JOHNSON then went 4-for-4 each from the foul line in the final 55 seconds, completing a series sweep of their district rivals.

"We did a great job coming back, but there were a couple times when we didn't take care of the ball and it cost us," said Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER. "We did a lot of things we wanted to, then even out-rebounded them (41-36), which surprised me, but turnovers were the difference in this game."

The first half saw eight lead changes, including seven on consecutive possessions before Cuyamaca broke free on an 8-0 run for a 30-20 lead late in the first half. Francisco scored nine of his game-high 17 points before halftime.

However, the Griffins surged back twice to tie the contest.

After Cuyamaca reclaimed a 39-30 lead, MAURICE CLADY scored a dramatic 3-point play on a drive to the basket while being fouled, as the ball lingered along the plange (the flat piece of metal which connects the back of the rim to the backboard) for a couple of heart-testing moments before falling in to knot the game at 39-all.

The Coyotes followed by again building the margin to 10 points at 51-41 on some quick baskets. CLINTON SHELTON stole a backcourt pass near the basket, powering forward for a slam over a pair of Griffins, then MARLON PIERCE scored five straight points, including a long 3-ball.

However, Grossmont fought back once more, as TROY VALENCIA scored eight of his 12 second-half points, while GERRED LINK dropped a 3-ball and a 14-foot jumper to move even at 59-all with 2:30 to play.

Shelton just missed a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and recording eight of Cuyamaca's 12 blocked shots. Pierce and BRANDON DeGREGORIO also tallied 10 points each.

Grossmont saw three players -- Clady, TROY VALENCIA and first-time starter ANDREW STUEDLE -- registered 14 points each. Stuedle also grabbed nine boards, as Weber elected to go with a bigger lineup since the Coyotes were without the services of center RYAN SHUMAKER, who suffered an eye injury after getting hit in the face during the Palomar game earlier in the week.

The Griffins actually made more shots from the floor than Cuyamaca (23-22), but the Coyotes were 25-of-33 at the foul line, including 13 of their last 14 in the second half.

Palomar maintained its share of the PCC lead with Cuyamaca after downing North County rival MiraCosta, 68-62. In other conference play, San Diego Mesa recorded just its second win of the season after shocking Imperial Valley, 96-92.

Cuyamaca, Grossmont roll to identical 61-59 victories

East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (1-26-06) -- Is it a time for celebration or one for cautious optimism?

For the third straight season, Cuyamaca College finds itself at the top of the Pacific Coast Conference standings at the midway mark, capped by Wednesday's (Jan. 25) narrow 61-59 decision over host San Diego City College at the brand-new Harry West Gymnasium.

The Coyotes' 6-1 conference record is more than pleasing to head coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. However, he admitted that his first words to the team in the postgame meeting had more to do with the past.

"I congratulated them for being in first place and for playing well in crunch time," noted Wojtkowski. "But I reminded them it means nothing unless they back it up with a good showing in the second half."

Thus, the need for caution.

Over the past two seasons, Cuyamaca was either alone or tied for first through the first round of conference play, only to see other ballclubs claim the PCC crown. Can the third time be the elusive charm?

"We sure hope so," added Wojekowski. "We're playing well right now, but every game is a dogfight in this league."

Including Wednesday's decision over the Knights.

JAMES FRANCISCO tallied a team-high 18 points, including 8-for-8 shooting at the foul line, while NATE REED and ERIK JOHNSON added 13 points each to grab the road triumph.

Despite holding a 31-23 halftime lead, Cuyamaca trailed SDCC with 10 minutes left, only to come through down the stretch. The victory was clinched when MARLON PIERCE hit 1-of-2 foul shots for a 4-point lead with seconds remaining, as City hit a bucket with 1 second left, but couldn't intercept the inbounds pass.

Freshman forward BRANDON DeGREGORIO keyed the turnaround with several of his game-high six steals to power the defense.

"City tried to go inside, but Brandon was there to take the ball away from the post," noted the coach. "He's been playing extremely well for us on defense lately."

Grossmont 61, Southwestern 59
CHULA VISTA (1-26-06) -- It's been a session of "what-ifs" for the Grossmont College Griffins during the first half of the Pacific Coast Conference season, which concluded Wednesday night (Jan. 25) with the Griffins eking out a 61-59 victory at Southwestern College.

"We lost two games that went right down to the wire, and we were with (front-running) Cuyamaca until the last couple of minutes," noted Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER, whose Griffins rest in a three-way tie for fourth place at 3-4, but could also be upwards of 6-1 with a few breaks.

Trailing 59-58 after Southwestern's Ben Perry hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds giving the Jaguars the lead, the Griffins conjured up the winning formula as MIKE FITZHUGH cashed in on an offensive rebound for a put-back moving Grossmont ahead by one.

MAURICE CLADY tacked on a free throw to give the Griffins (7-14, 3-4) their winning margin.

Not to be overlooked in Grossmont scoring burst in the final two minutes was STEVEN COLLINS' three-point shot that knotted the score at 56-all.

Southwestern (4-19, 2-5) scored 5 unanswered points then got stuck on 18 and went six minutes without scoring. Even so, the Jaguars led 26-24 at the half.

"In the second half we just slowly but surely crept back into it," Weber said. "We played really good, solid defense."

Weber commented on the final score, which is on the low side for a college game.

"Both teams are having trouble scoring," Weber noted. "But both teams play good defense. Our kids played really hard."

Fitzhugh led the Griffins with 16 points, Clady added 15 and Collins finished with nine. The second round of conference play begins Saturday (Jan. 28) when the Griffins host Cuyamaca at 7 p.m.

Griffins's Michael Fitzhugh gains the bucket and the blocking foul on Mesa's David Vallero for a 3-point play in a 82-79 victory.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Another frontrunner falls;
Palomar downs Coyotes

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (1-22-06) -- It seems the only time a team wants to be in first place in the Pacific Coast Conference is after the final day of the season. On Saturday (Jan. 21), another frontrunner fell when Cuyamaca College was stopped by visiting Palomar, 90-81, forging a first-place deadlock between the two schools.

Cuyamaca and Palomar are now tied for the PCC lead at 5-1. Imperial Valley is a game back of the Coyotes and Comets after falling to San Diego City College, 78-58.

A parade of 10 treys lifted Palomar (9-11 overall), offsetting the scoring of the Coyotes' JAMES FRANCISCO (29 points, including seven treys), MARLON PIERCE (21), and NATE REED (13).

The Comets (9-11, 5-1), who have won seven of their last nine games after
opening the season 2-9 with a club that has only two sophomores, took a
42-33 halftime lead and stretched their advantage to 20 points in the second
half before Francisco shot the Coyotoes (13-9) back to the final margin.

"Palomar drives the ball pretty well and they shoot it pretty well," noted Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "But we really missed RYAN SHUMAKER after he got hit in the eye."

Shumaker, a freshman out of West Hills High, dominated the paint early with five rebounds in the opening four minutes. However, he got smacked in the eye and sat out most of the contest. Although he did play with a few minutes left, the center finished with a nice shiner -- and the Coyotes' seeking help underneath.

"Palomar took it too us defensively," added Wojtkowski. "Only one other team really did that to us all year -- the team from Mott College of Michigan (at the Saddleback Tournament)."

Without Shumaker, the Comets gained even more access to the paint, resulting in more trips to the foul line. They hit 29-of-42 free throws compared to Cuyamaca's 19-for-27 -- the difference in the ballgame. The Coyotes also hurt themselves with 25 turnovers.

Palomar now owns a 4-game winning streak, with its lone conference setback coming in double-overtime on a half-court shot against IVC. Cuyamaca (13-9) saw its 7-game winning streak snapped.

Grossmont center James Deng grabs the ball for a rebound against MiraCosta.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Spartans accept cakewalk

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (1-22-06) -- In the most disappointing effort of their Pacific Coast Conference season thus far, the host Grossmont College Griffins were completely out-hustled by MiraCosta and never mounted any sort of comeback opportunity in losing, 77-57.

MiraCosta, looking for offense since leading scorer Marin Modic went down with an injury, found answers from Ricky Martinez, who scored a game-high 25 points. Included were 11 free throws on 14 attempts, as Martinez continued to gain penetration in the paint and either drop-in short jumpers or get fouled.

Nick Johnson added 18 points, including a sweet spin move inside for a layin while being fouled for a 3-point play. Every member of the Spartans (9-13 overall, 3-3 PCC) registered at least one assist to stagger the defense of Grossmont (6-14, 2-4).

GERRED LINK paced the Griffins with 10 points, but a never-ending carousel of defensive changes -- both by style and personnel -- by head coach DOUG WEBER failed to find a combination to slow the penetration by MiraCosta's guard.

The Spartans took the lead for keeps at 11-10 on a putback bucket by Mark Sammons, then the team closed the half on a 9-0 scoring run to claim a 35-19 advantage. The margin jumped to 20 on Martinez' steal and breakaway basket at 53-33 with 9:49 left, eventually reaching 25 points.

Following Link, five other Griffins -- ANDREW STEUDLE, TROY VALENCIA, MIKE FITZHUGH, ANTHONY NEWSOME and STEVEN COLLINS -- all scored six points each, as all 14 suited and played for Grossmont and got in the scorebook with points.

Griffins's Michael Fitzhugh gains the bucket and the blocking foul on Mesa's David Vallero for a 3-point play in a 82-79 victory.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Coyotes escapes the Valley
as leaders of the PCC

East County Sports.com
IMPERIAL (1-19-06) -- It's one of the toughest road trips in Southern California, although Cuyamaca College is the closest opponent to perennial Pacific Coast Conference kingpin Imperial Valley College. So when the Coyotes arrived home late Wednesday (Jan. 18) night, they held a cautious confidence.

Behind perhaps the best guard tandem in the conference, JAMES FRANCISCO poured home 24 points, while MARLON PIERCE scored nine and passed for eight assists, as the Coyotes made a small second-half lead hold up throughout in a 64-59 decision over the Arabs in a battle of PCC co-leaders.

"We played our best game of the year," noted Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "We executed down the stretch, so we're happy in the position we're now in."

Happy, but with a touch of prudence.

Over the two previous seasons, Cuyamaca led the conference at the midway mark with 6-1 records, only to hit potholes in the second half. Nevertheless, surviving one of the toughest trips in the Southland gives the Coyotes not only assurance, but the undisputed lead at 5-0 (13-8 overall).

Grossmont guard Herbert Rivers drives to the basket, although he misses after getting fouled by Olympians guard Dario Ramirez.
(Photo by Adolfo Villanueva)

"We thought we could do well in league," added Wojtkowski. "But we still have to play Palomar on Saturday, and we still need to play (San Diego) City again."

Once again, a balanced attack stretched the Arabs' defense.

Francisco overcame a poor shooting effort in the first half (1-for-6) by scoring on a series of mid-range jumpers, helping to overcome IVC's 35-30 halftime lead and give Cuyamaca the lead for keeps at 37-36.

Imperial Valley (7-12, 4-1) made several runs, but Francisco nailed a series of three straight 3-point shots over the final five minutes.

BRANDON DeGREGORIO, who has been peaking of late, added 12 points and seven boards, while NATE REED also scored 12 and posted four steals.

Saturday's 7 p.m. game with Palomar is the team's lone home contest during a three-week stretch.

Grossmont rebuffs new-look Olympians

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (1-19-06) -- After going 1-12 entering conference play, the coaching staff at San Diego Mesa College decided to try another direction and change its style of play.

"They now try to press you, then try to trap you and just play an up-tempo, in-your-face type of game," noted Grossmont College coach DOUG WEBER. "They switched around the time of their holiday tournament, so some teams were not aware of it and Mesa caught them off guard."

However, aware of the change in tactics, the Griffins were able to hold their slim lead over the final 14 minutes of Wednesday's (Jan. 18) Pacific Coast Conference contest, clinging to an 82-79 triumph.

STEVEN COLLINS paced the Griffins with game-highs of 23 points and nine rebounds. Included were nine quick points to ignite the hosts to a quick 14-7 lead. And when Mesa rallied, the guard added seven points over the game's final six minutes, including a leaping tip-in to give Grossmont a 78-75 lead with 1:04 remaining after the Olympians trimmed the margin down to a single point.

"Mesa is now a tough team even though the record doesn't show it," said Collins. "And I've had a couple of tough games, so this wasn't really a team I wanted to play right now. But coach said to keep working hard and stay aggressive."

The other big play came from guard GERRED LINK. After Mesa tied the game at 60-all with 4:12 left, Link nailed a 3-point shot from the corner while being fouled, sinking the free throw for a 4-point play with 3:47 remaining.

The relentless Olympians again moved within a point when Ivan Maxwell scored on a putback with 28.2 seconds left, but Grossmont broke the press, as Link passed to Collins for a layin while being fouled, converting the 3-point play with 23.8 seconds to go to clinch the victory.

Grossmont shot an even 50 percent from the floor (28-for-56), including 6-for-11 shooting from 3-point range.

"We're not a team like Cuyamaca with a bunch of good outside shooters," noted Weber. "So to shoot like we did tonight -- just catching the ball and shooting it strong -- is a real bonus for us."

MIKE FITZHUGH added 15 points for Grossmont, while MAURICE CLADY added 10 points and five assists.

James Milt scored 17 points to lead Mesa, which made 14-of-35 from beyond the arc, thus leading to Grossmont's 46-37 rebounding advantage.

Coyotes set for showdown in the Valley
'Five-point' plays help decide both East County contests

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (1-15-06) -- It might have been a case of looking ahead to Wednesday's showdown in the desert between Pacific Coast Conference co-leaders Cuyamaca (12-8, 4-0) and Imperial Valley (7-11, 4-0). Both teams muddled through Saturday's (Jan. 14) games, as Cuyamaca didn't pull away from San Diego Mesa until the final five minutes before claiming a 102-87 victory, while Imperial Valley needed to hold off a late rally by visiting Grossmont for a 56-51 decision.

Rebounding proved to be the difference for Cuyamaca, as RYAN SHUMAKER registered 13 points and 11 rebounds, while CLINTON SHELTON added 13 boards and a team-high five assists. But the biggest rebound of the night was notched by JAMES FRANCISCO.

With the Coyotes holding a 5-point lead with four minutes remaining, Francisco grabbed the ball, dribbled out a few strides, then sent a 50-foot pass to ERIK JOHNSON in front of the Mesa basket. Johnson caught the ball, turned and shot all in one motion, scoring on a short 3-footer while being fouled.

However, in addition to the foul shot for a 3-point play, the Mesa defender was called for a technical foul after spiking the ball in frustration, with two bonus foul shots resulting in a 5-point play and a 10-point lead.

"James made big plays for us all game long," noted Coyotes coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "Every time Mesa got within a couple of points, he made a big basket for us."

The last-place Olympians (1-16, 0-4) attempted different defensive tactics by over-playing the passing lanes or doubling the ball-handler, which kept them close for a while

"We were just running lanes because they were trying to trap everywhere," added the coach. "So James would just take the ball, make a move, and make his shot."

The balanced scoring attack of the Coyotes - winners of a season-high six straight ballgames -- saw BRANDON DeGREGORIO add 13 points, followed by MARLON PIERCE (12 points), NATE REED (9) and LUKE KELLEY (8).

"Nate did a nice job in the first half, when he scored most of his points," Wotjkowski added, "It was a lot closer game than the score, and Nate kept us ahead early on."

Offense-less Griffins rally, still fumble another ballgame away

East County Sports.com
IMPERIAL (1-15-06) -- The visiting Grossmont College Griffins scored a pitiful 14 points in the first 20 minutes of Saturday's (Jan. 14) Pacific Coast Conference contest at Imperial Valley College. They trailed 30-14 at the intermission and then bounced back to tie the Arabs with eight minutes to play only to come up on the short end of a 56-51 score.

Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER credited both sides for playing supreme defense. He also noted that his Griffins (5-13, 1-3) were totally out of synch on the offensive end coming out of the chute.

"How can you score just 14 points in a half and still have a chance to win the game," Weber asked rhetorically. "Our poor offensive start was due in part to a combination of things. We tried to shoot too quickly and fumbled the ball. We went right through their press and then didn't convert at the offensive end."

However, Grossmont took a 40-37 lead when GERRED LINK hit a 3-pointer in transition with just under seven minutes to play.

IVC countered with a five-point play to take a 42-40 advantage it would not surrender. James Hughes hammered down a game-tying 3-pointer while the Griffins were charged with a block-out foul underneath.

On the free throwing front, the IVC landed 16-of-26 charity chances, while the Griffins made only 3-of-6 from the foul line.

ANDREW STEUDLE led the Griffins with 19 points. MAURICE CLADY added 10 and JAMES HALEY -- a Brawley High grad -- pitched in eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

Next up for the Griffins is a PCC contest at San Diego Mesa on Wednesday (Jan. 18) on the Olympians' floor at 7 p.m.

Coyotes prepare for killer schedule with romp

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (1-12-06) -- Cuyamaca College got ready for the most difficult section of its Pacific Coast Conference schedule by whipping visiting MiraCosta, 79-55 -- the Coyotes' largest margin of victory all season.

Cuyamaca dominated inside, as center RYAN SHUMAKER downed 8-of-9 shots en route to a team-high 17 points, while power forward ERIK JOHNSON hit the short jumper all Wednesday (Jan. 11) night, hitting 6-of-8 shots for 14 points.

The victory -- their fifth consecutive -- kept the Coyotes (11-8 overall) tied with Imperial Valley for first place in the PCC at 3-0, as coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI's team plays four of their next five contests on the road, including a battle with the Arabs in Imperial next Wednesday.

"Our big guys played well inside," said Wojtkowski. "We were relying on one of two guys to score for us from the outside, but with them coming on, we're getting a much more balanced scoring attack, which makes it even harder for teams to defend us."

In addition, JAMES FRANCISCO scored 14 points and added five assists, while LUKE KELLEY added nine points and grabbed five rebounds.

"Luke was pretty aggressive, while we attacked their pressure and got a lot of layups," added the coach.

Meanwhile, MARLON PIERCE, the team's scoring leader, was able to take charge by running the point. He only scored six points, but passed for seven assists by picking apart the Spartans' defense.

"He hustled and was the decision-maker out there," noted Wojtkowski. "And you can't complain about our defense when you hold a team to just 55 points."

Cuyamaca opens its series of games dominantly on the road this Saturday at 7 p.m. at San Diego Mesa. The sequence of trips ends on Jan. 28 at Grossmont.

Griffins guard Maurice Clady drives the lane, beating Palomar's Chris Johnson to the basket for two points.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Griffins foiled after strong surge

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (1-12-06) -- Five times, Grossmont College was able to get even and tie the score in the second half in Wednesday's (Jan. 11) Pacific Coast Conference game with visiting Palomar. Yet five times, with a chance to take the lead, the Griffins could never connect on the go-ahead shot.

"It was frustrating after working so hard to stay in the game," explained Griffins coach DOUG WEBER. "We played good defense, we out-rebounded them, but we just couldn't get any shots to fall."

Meanwhile, Comets guard John Hotaling connected on a 3-point shot with 21.6 seconds remaining, clinching Palomar's hard-fought 70-65 decision.

Keeping the contest in the 50s or 60s was an important goal of Weber's, as Palomar is noted for a run-and-gun style.

"GERRED (LINK, the point guard) controlled the tempo so we could run the game at our speed," added the Griffins’ coach. "Then we would throw Mo (MAURICE CLADY) in there to speed things up for a chance of pace."

The strategy proved effective, as Grossmont came back from a 10-3 deficit out of the gate to take leads of 17-16 and 19-18 in the first half. Palomar made one late run to push the margin to 60-51 with 4:26 remaining, but the Griffins moved within a bucket.

TROY VALENCIA battled inside for an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback for a 3-point play. Link followed by draining a 3-ball, then forced a turnover by taking a charge. And when Valencia countered with his own trey, the deficit was trimmed to 65-63.

Valencia and Link paced Grossmont (5-12 overall, 1-2 PCC) with 16 points apiece. The Comets (6-11, 2-1) received a game-high 21 points from G.P. Wells, while Manny Alcala added 17 points and five assists.

Cuyamaca ends perfect week with defensive surge

East County Sports.com
CHULA VISTA (1-8-06) -- Few knew what to expect from Southwestern College, owners of one of the poorest records in pre-conference play, yet a team which unceremoniously defeated San Diego City to open Pacific Coast Conference play earlier in the week.

However, Cuyamaca College always has one skill to fall back on no matter what the Jaguars would do: play tough defense and intimidate shots.

In a balanced battle which featured seven lead changes and was tied nine times, the Coyotes found several heroes after five different players blocked shots, while an unselfish offense saw an amazing eight separate players garner assists, as Cuyamaca pulled away late to dissolve Southwestern, 66-55, at Jaguar Gym.

The victory left Cuyamaca (10-8 overall, 2-0 PCC) as one of two remaining undefeated teams through the first week of conference play. The Coyotes are joined by Imperial Valley, which survived a 104-103 double-overtime victory at Palomar.

"Rebounding and blocks lead to transition, then we can run from there," said Coyotes guard MARLON PIERCE, who registered a game-high 28 points, including 11 over the final 9:22. "Every game in this conference always seems to be close, but we worked hard all week in practice to be ready for situations like this."

Pierce's drive to the basket while being fouled finally gave the Coyotes the lead for keeps at 42-20 with 13:35 remaining. Freshman guard LUKE KELLEY, a product of nearby Hilltop High, made himself welcome in his only scheduled South Bay appearance this season by scoring the next seven points to cap a 12-0 run for a 49-40 cushion.

Kelley took an excellent Pierce pass on a backdoor cut for a layin, drove the lane for a pullup 6-footer on the transition after ERIK JOHNSON blocked a shot, then accepted a pass through traffic by MICHAEL OKENWA to drain a 3-point shot for the Coyotes' biggest lead of the ballgame.

"Michael also came in and gave us strong minutes on defense," noted coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "And Marlon had a really big game for us -- it was one of his best games."

Meanwhile, CLINTON SHELTON and Johnson prevented second-chance opportunities for the Jaguars. Shelton collected 12 rebounds and blocked five shots, while Johnson grabbed 11 boards and limited Southwestern forward J.J. Harrington to just five points.

"The defense stepped up all game," noted Shelton. "The only way we can win is to play hard every day because close games are the way it is in the PCC."

JAMES FRANCISCO sparked the late 29-14 surge to close the contest with three of his four 3-balls to account for his 12 points.

"Every league game is tough," Francisco said. "Everybody is even and they were a good team, so we knew we had to work hard."

RYAN SHUMAKER added five rebounds and helped keep the Jags away from the basket underneath to aid the defensive effort. Cuyamaca returns home on Wednesday to host MiraCosta; the Spartans dumped San Diego Mesa, 94-87.

Cuyamaca scoring: Pierce 29 (6 reb., 4 ast.), Francisco 12, Kelley 9, Johnson 7 (11 reb.), Williams 4, Shelton 3 (12 reb., 5 blk.), DeGregorio 2, Shumaker 1 (5 reb

Grossmont alters pattern of failures

East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (1-8-06) -- Allowing a series of first-half leads to disappear all season long, the Grossmont College coaching staff was deeply concerned after San Diego City closed the gap to catch the Griffins midway through the second half of Saturday's (Jan. 7) Pacific Coast Conference ballgame.

"It's something we've talked to the kids about," noted Griffins coach DOUG WEBER. "But this time, we buckled down and made some threes."

Including a pair of treys by STEVEN COLLINS, Grossmont took care of the basketball to generate good shots, outscoring the Knights by a 2-to-1 margin over the final seven minutes to secure a 76-63 victory at the brand-new Harry West Gymnasium.

"You could see it coming down -- we've seen it all year long," noted Weber. "We made some good decisions with the ball and took care of business inside -- our big guys did a really good job."

Collins finished with nine points -- all in the second half -- while CASEY HIGHT added nine when substituting for Collins.

"They gave us 18 points at that one spot alone," noted Weber. "I can't tell you how much that helped us tonight."

GERRED LINK paced the Griffins with 17 points, while MICHAEL FITZHUGH added 11 points.

The Griffins jumped to a quick 5-0 lead, which "surprised them a little bit," added the coach. SDCC made a couple of charges, but once they finally got even, Grossmont regained control after the Knights lost some energy.

The Knights, one of the preseason favorites to capture the PCC, is now 0-2 -- losing both games at home. Grossmont returns home for the first time in more than a month, hosting Palomar at 7 p.m. Wednesday in its conference home opener.

Coyotes defense forces Griffins into the wall

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (1-5-06) -- Trailing their district rivals by as many as seven points early in the second half, Grossmont College rallied to take a 52-51 lead over host Cuyamaca when GERRED LINK nailed a long 3-ball with 7:52 remaining in Wednesday's (Jan. 4) Pacific Coast Conference opener.

Then the Griffins smacked into a wall.

Getting challenged on almost every ensuing shot, Grossmont missed its next nine consecutive attempts from the field while Cuyamaca ignited on a 10-point scoring run, giving the Coyotes an exciting 67-58 triumph.

Cuyamaca also received good news following the ballgame. Preseason PCC conference favorite San Diego City was an Opening Night upset victim to lowly Southwestern, 62-61, a team which won just twice in 16 contests entering the new year.

"Grossmont came in here and played very well," said Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. "Then it was just another Pacific Coast Conference game after that, a gutty game -- there are no blowouts in this league."

The Griffins claimed a 33-27 halftime lead, only to see Cuyamaca strike quickly after the intermission with a 16-3 run to take a 43-36 advantage. However, Link drained a trio of 3-balls for nine of his team-high 13 points over a 4:08 span to move back in front.

However, the Coyotes (9-8, 1-0) would have nothing of it, using balanced scoring to grab an early share of the conference lead. Five players scored in double figures, including a game-best 16 points from forward ERIK JOHNSON.

"Erik showed us some rebounding, too," added Wojtkowski. "He played well towards the end.

CLINTON SHELTON also aided the Cuyamaca defense with five blocks, including two in a 3-second span during the team's late 10-0 run. Meanwhile, NATE REED scored 13 points, followed by RYAN SHUMAKER (12 points), MARLON PIERCE (11) and JAMES FRANCISCO (10).

STEVEN COLLINS, who was recently named the Pacific Coast Conference male athlete of the week, matched Link with 13 points, while MATT MARSHALL played well off the bench for Grossmont (4-11, 0-1).

"Matt gave us some energy off the bench and helped us take the lead," said Griffins assistant coach CHRIS O'DOHERTY. "Steven and Gerred shot well, and we did a good job against their bigger guys underneath, but defensive rebounding killed us."

Included was one series when the hustling Coyotes grabbed three straight offensive rebounds, as Shumaker was finally fouled on the fourth shot attempt His foul shots gave the hosts their first lead of the second half at 36-34 just 2:02 into the period.

Cuyamaca scoring: Johnson 16, Reed 13, Shumaker 12, Francisco 11, Pierce 10, Kelley 3, Williams 2.

Grossmont scoring: Link 13, Collins 13, Fitzhugh 8, Allred 5, Valencia 5, Marshall 3, Clady 3, Byers 2, Haley 2, Hight 2.

Coyotes prepare for PCC opener by downing PCC foe

East County Sports.com
SANTA ANA (12-31-05) -- In an unfortunate twist of the basketball schedule, despite being in opposite sides of the bracket at the Santa Ana Holiday Classic, Cuyamaca College met fellow Pacific Coast Conference member MiraCosta in Friday's (Dec. 30) consolation final. So the Coyotes made sure who would gain the upper hand when the official conference slate begins next week.

Romping to score 54 points in the second half, Cuyamaca (8-8) connected on 10 of its first 13 shots after the intermission to bury the Spartans, 84-65, at historic Cook Gymnasium.

JAMES FRANCISCO powered the Coyotes' attack by pouring in 26 points, while NATE REED added 22, as the pair of guards combined to drain 8-of-16 shots from beyond the 3-point stripe.

Meanwhile, MARLON PIERCE directed the offense to find the open shooter, passing for six assists while also scoring 12 points.

For MiraCosta (6-10), Marin Modic, one of the PCC's leading scorers, again was strong with a 32-point effort. But the rest of the Spartans combined to shoot just 13-for-38 from the floor, while Cuyamaca dominated on the boards with a 40-26 rebounding advantage.

The two teams soon will meet in PCC action on Jan. 11, but first for the Coyotes is their PCC opener when they host crosstown rival Grossmont on Wed., Jan. 4 at 7 p.m.

Saddleback captured the tournament by downing the host Dons, 82-71.

Cuyamaca goes north to beat the Clippers

East County Sports.com
SANTA ANA (12-30-05) -- Connecting on a series of long-range shots, Cuyamaca College's JAMES FRANCISCO collected a game-high 23 points, as the Coyotes scored a season-high 53 points in the first half then hung on the down South Puget Sound College (Wash.), 81-76, in the consolation semifinals of the Santa Ana Holiday Classic.

The Coyotes mounted a 53-41 lead at the intermission over the Clippers -- who are based in the state capital of Olympia -- by shooting 52 percent from the floor. However, when the rim on the other side of historic Cook Gymnasium proving to be unfriendly, Cuyamaca survived 6-for-26 (23 percent) shooting by knocking down shots from the foul line to maintain the lead throughout.

Francisco also added seven rebounds, while RYAN SHUMAKER collected seven points and eight boards, earning Cuyamaca (7-8) a matchup in Friday's consolation final against Pacific Coast Conference rival MiraCosta, an opponent the Coyotes will meet early in PCC play in the conference's third contest on Jan. 11.

LUKE KELLY scored 11 points for the Coyotes (7-8), while ERIK JOHNSON and NATE REED added 10 points each.

Griffins drop seventh in a row

East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (12-30-05) --Despite sinking 10 three-pointers for the second game in a row, the Grossmont Griffins made an early exit from the San Diego Mesa College Holiday Tournament Thursday (Dec. 29), falling to Glendale 85-75.

"The lead went back and forth until the 7-minute mark," said Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER. "We had a spell where we were stuck on 60 points for three or four minutes and couldn't get over the hump. We had them and just went really cold."

"It was an off night. As good as it was yesterday, it was bad tonight."

STEVEN COLLINS canned 20 points, including four 3-pointers, to pace Grossmont. MAURICE CLADY added 15 points and TROY VALENCIA pitched in 13. Clady and Valencia each hit a pair of 3s.

It was the seventh straight loss for the Griffins (4-10), who now have less than a week to prepare for their Pacific Coast Conference opener Jan. 4 at Cuyamaca.

Shower of threes not enough for Griffins

East County Sports.com
SAN DIEGO (12-29-05) -- Not even hitting 10 three-point buckets was a large enough boost to lift the Grossmont Griffins past East Los Angeles College in Wednesday's (Dec. 28) opening round of the San Diego Mesa College Holiday Classic. The hustling Huskies (11-5) rallied for a 77-74 victory.

CASEY McROBERTS-HIGHT sank four shots from beyond the arc, while STEVEN COLLINS and GERRED LINK hit three apiece for the Griffins, who led 35-33 at halftime.

"It's a strange game," Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said. "In our last game at Barstow, we were 1-for-11 shooting threes."

With 1:30 left, Grossmont had the ball twice with the chance to take a late lead.

"We were able to make a couple of defensive stops to tie it (74-all)," Weber said. "But then we committed some fouls at the end and they made their shots to go up by three (points)."

Collins paced Grossmont (4-9) with 17 points, while Hight knocked down 14. Link pitched in 13 and MICHAEL FITZHUGH finished with 10.

The Mesa tourney continues on Thursday (Dec. 29) as Grossmont plays Glendale in a rematch of the opening season game at noon. The Griffins won the first meeting 78-73.

"Six of our losses have come in overtime or at the buzzer," Weber said. "So we are right there."

Grossmont opens Pacific Coast Conference play at Cuyamaca on Wednesday (Jan. 4) at 7 p.m.

Cuyamaca can't climb the Mounties

East County Sports.com
SANTA ANA (12-29-05) -- Despite holding a halftime lead, Cuyamaca College couldn't cool off a hot Mt. San Antonio College basketball team, as the Mounties won for the third straight outing and five of their last six in nipping the Coyotes, 64-61, in Wednesday's (Dec. 28) opening round of the 28th annual Santa Ana College Holiday Classic at historic Cook Gymnasium.

Rishawn Norwood scored a game-high 18 points -- one of four Mounties to reach double figures -- and grabbed nine rebounds to advance Mt. SAC to the semifinals against Saddleback. The Gauchos downed South Puget Sound (WA), 91-58, to send the Olympia-based Clippers (5-4) into the consolation round against Cuyamaca at 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 30).

The Coyotes (6-8) were in front at the intermission, 33-30, as JAMES FRANCISCO led the team with 13 points, while RYAN SHUMAKER added 10 points.

Francisco was a treat, but Coyotes
allow late lead to slip away

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (12-22-05) -- Cuyamaca College coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI wasn't happy Tuesday night (Dec. 20) after watching his Coyotes lose a game to visiting Irvine Valley that they probably should have won. The record will show that the Lasers overcame a 12-point second half deficit to claim a 74-71 victory.

"This was a bad loss for us,"Wojtkowski said. "We had the game in our hands, but we didn't close them out. Give them credit, tough. They made some big shots, some key threes there at the end."

Even in defeat Cuyamaca (6-7) was not without some noteworthy performances. Sophomore JAMES FRANCISCO cast in 27 points, hitting 9-of-18 shots from the field. The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Montgomery High also snagged seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

MARLON PIERCE (Helix) added 12 points and 5 assists for the Coyotes, who also received 11 points from BRANDON DeGREGORIO and 8 points from NATE REED (El Cajon Valley). Reed also logged 4 steals.

Next up for the Coyotes is the 28th annual Santa Ana College Holiday Classic (Dec. 28-30). Cuyamaca faces Mt. San Antonio College in the opening round at 3 p.m.

Coyotes heat up in second half to burn Jaguars

East County Sports.com
MISSION VIEJO (12-18-05) -- It took Cuyamaca College some time to gain its shooting touch, but when the Coyotes did, they easily pulled away to whip Southwestern, 68-57, on Saturday (Dec. 17) to claim the consolation championship of the Saddleback College Classic.

The host Gauchos (11-2) captured the event by edging Mott (Mich.), 66-61. Ramona Mendoza earned tournament MVP honors after connecting on 8-of-12 free throw attempts in the second half to ice the victory for the second night in a row.

Joining Mendoza on the all-tournament team was Helix High graduate and Coyotes guard MARLON PIERCE.

Pierce registered a game-high 17 points for Cuyamaca (6-6), hitting 7-of-11 shots from the field, most in the second half when the Coyotes shot a tick under 50 percent from the floor after a disappointing 7-for-25 effort in the first half.

ERIK JOHNSON and JAMESON FRANCISCO added 13 points apiece for Cuyamaca, while NATE REED popped 12 points. BRANDON DeGREGORIO aided the defense with 16 rebounds.

Southwestern (2-14) received 16 points from guard Josh Gordon, but he also committed half (10) of the Jaguars' 20 turnovers.

Next up for the Coyotes is a home game with Irvine Valley on Wed., Dec. 21m at 5 p.m., then it's on to the 28th annual Santa Ana College Holiday Classic (Dec. 28-30). Cuyamaca takes on Mt. San Antonio in a 3 p.m. first round game.

BARSTOW 72, GROSSMONT 68 (OT) -- This one had to hurt. Traveling for more than six hours roundtrip, the Griffins had four chances to sink just two free throws in the final two seconds that would have given them a victory over host Barstow. The Griffins made one, which sent Saturday's (Dec. 17) game into overtime.

And Grossmont hasn't had much luck in overtime. It didn't change for the better on Saturday. For the third time in extra time, the Griffins came up short as they bowed to Barstow 72-68.

Grossmont was enjoying a 37-24 lead early in the second half when the Griffins somehow lost their concentration.

"We still had the lead with 30 seconds left when they finally caught us and went up by one,"Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said.

GERRED LINK, one of the Griffins top free throw shooters, missed a pair with two seconds left, but JAMES HALEY came down with the offensive rebound and was fouled. Haley missed the first charity shot, but swished the second tying the score at 58-58 with 0:002 left in regulation.

"We had the right guy at the line (in Link), but the ball just didn't fall our way," Weber said. "Then we get another chance (in Haley), but can't put the game away. That's a tough loss. We should have won this game."

Instead, the Griffins (4-8), who hit just 15-of-28 free throws, were tagged with their fifth loss in a row.

BRETT ALLRED paced Grossmont with 19 points, while Haley contributed 15. STEVEN COLLINS added nine.

The Griffins will take off the Christmas Holidays until Wednesday, Dec. 28 when they face state power East Los Angeles in the opening round of the San Diego Mesa Tournament.

Coyotes smack, 'Good Knight, now,' to dump San Diego City

East County Sports.com
MISSION VIEJO (12-17-05) -- Seeking extra effort from the entire roster, not just the starting quintet, Cuyamaca College responded on the defensive end of the floor to dump San Diego City, 87-72, in Friday's (Dec. 16) consolation semifinals of the Saddleback College classic.

The Coyotes (5-6) will meet another Pacific Coast Conference rival in Saturday's consolation final, meeting Southwestern. The Jaguars (1-10) snapped a season-long 10-game losing streak after upsetting Victor Valley, 85-72.

Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI challenged all of his players to raise their efforts when the opponent held possession of the ball. And the statistics proved it, as almost every player on the roster registered at least three rebounds, including a team-best seven boads by BRANDON DeGREGORIO. Four players registered at least two steals against the Knights (7-4).

Meanwhile, the offense got healthy, too, shooting 34-of-67 (51 percent) from the floor, including 20 points by JAMES FRANCISCO, while NATE REED added 15 points, as five different Coyotes reached double figures in scoring.

Sophomore MARLON PIERCE punched in 14 points and recorded eight assists in directing the Coyotes offense.

For the Knights, Packy Conway-O'Neill hit four 3-balls for his team-high 15 points, as San Diego City attempted to rally from a 37-30 halftime deficit by draining 11 shots from beyond the arc.

Mott makes apple sauce of Coyotes

East County Sports.com
MISSION VIEJO (12-16-05) -- Demonstrating why they are the defending Michigan state community college champions, Mott College (Flint, Mich.) raced to an early lead in easily handling Cuyamaca College, 64-46, Thursday (Dec. 15) in the opening round of the Saddleback College Classic.

Freshman guard MARLON PIERCE led the Coyotes (4-6) with 10 points, while forward JAMES FRANCISCO added nine points, but it wasn't enough to keep up with the Bears, as Cuyamca dropped its third straight contest for the second time this season.

Two other Pacific Coast Conference teams also fell in the opening round, as San Diego City fell to Irvine Valley, 74-71, while winless Southwestern dropped its 11th straight in a 67-48 setback to Santa Monica.

Grossmont will meet San Diego City in Friday's consolation semifinals at 1 p.m.

Dons slow Cuyamaca's backcourt in revenge win

East County Sports.com
SANTA ANA (12-14-05) -- After Cuyamaca guard MARLON PIERCE scored a team season-high 34 points in the teams' first meeting last month, Santa Ana College gained a slice of revenge by bouncing the visiting Coyotes, 62-57, in Tuesday's (Dec. 13) non-conference game at historic Cook Gymnasium.

Pierce was limited to 19 points this go-round, sharing team honors with JAMES FRANCISCO, who also added six rebounds. BRANDON DeGREGORIO and Pierce led the Coyotes with seven boards, while Pierce registered three steals.

Cuyamaca (4-5) will next participate in the Saddleback College Classic in Mission Viejo, meeting Mott College (Flint, Mich.) in Thursday's tournament opener at 1 p.m. The Bears are the defending Michigan Community College Athletic Association champions.

Griffins rally, but fall in overtime

East County Sports.com
SANTA BARBARA (12-11-05) -- What a difficult trip for the Grossmont Griffins.

After losing on a buzzer-beater in the opening round of the Santa Barbara City College Tournament, the Griffins were swept out of the event after Allan Hancock survived a Grossmont comeback to score a tight 86-78 overtime victory during Friday's (Dec. 9) consolation semifinals.

Grossmont trailed by as many as 10 points, but caught the Bulldogs at 72-all, despite an imbalance at the foul line, where Hancock held a 22-6 advantage.

MAURICE CLADY paced the Griffins (4-7), who lost their fourth straight. It was also the second time this season Grossmont was eliminated from a tournament with an overtime setbac.

Hancock (6-6) saw freshman guard Luis Gomez lead a balanced scoring attack with 19 points. Donte' Williams and Jason Davis put in 16 each. Ryan Hynes added 13, and Edmin Johnson scored 10.

Buzzer-beater stirs Griffins

East County Sports.com
SANTA BARBARA (12-9-05) -- It was a bitter defeat for the Grossmont Griffins in Thursday's (Dec. 8) opening round of the Santa Barbara Classic. The Cypress College Chargers cast in a medium-range bank shot at the buzzer to beat the Griffins 70-68 and drop Grossmont (4-6) into Friday's consolation bracket.

"We lost it at the buzzer -- it should have gone into overtime," said Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER. "They took an off-balance 17-footer and the ball bounced out of the rim and was tipped back in from the rebound attempts. It could have even been one of our guys going up for the rebound that tipped it in. We hate to lose a game that way."

Grossmont was paced by BRETT ALLRED's 19 points (on 8-for-9 shooting. STEVEN COLLINS added 16 points (7-14) and MAURICE CLADY popped in 15 markers. HERBERT RIVERS contributed 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Grossmont plays a consolation contest Friday (Dec. 9) at 3 p.m.

Saddleback collects Grossmont Invitational

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (12-5-05) -- Saddleback College guard Ramon Mendoza earned MVP honors after scoring a game-high 18 points and providing solid defense, helping the Gauchos mount a 21-point lead en route to a 70-50 decision over Orange Empire Conference rival Cypress to claim the title of the 34th annual Grossmont College Invitational.

Forwards Tremaine Ford-Townsend (11 points, 8 rebounds) and Keith Smith (10 pts., 9 reb.) also earned berths to the all-tournament team for Saddleback (9-1). Cypress (5-4) also placed two players on the event honor roll, including Eric Taylor (15 pts) and Houstan Downey (10 pts., 9 reb.)

The tournament-host Griffins fell in the third-place contest to Cuesta College (4-7) of San Luis Obispo, 75-61. Cougars forward Mecklen Davis was tabbed all-tournament, while Chris Silzer scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the first half behind 6-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc to build a 49-30 lead at the intermission.

Grossmont (4-5) received a team-high 12 points from guard STEVEN COLLINS, but the Griffins couldn't overcome Cuesta's 16-for-25 (64.0 percent) shooting in the first 20 minutes.

In the consolation contest, Allan Hancock (4-5) outlasted Barstow, 100-95 in double overtime.

Barstow's Jordan Hughes scored his only points at the end of regulation, hitting a 3-ball with 0.6 seconds left to force overtime at 78-all.

Hancock thought it won the game in the first overtime when Donte Williams (game-best 23 points) hit a driving layin with 0.2 seconds left, but since the clock stops after a basket, the Bulldogs were assessed a technical foul when the bench stormed onto the court, with Vikings guard Dominic Priestly hitting both foul shots to extend the game at 88-all.

The teams combined for 72 fouls and six players fouling out (3 each), but Barstow was able to rally from a 21-point deficit early in the second half when Hancock hit just 18-of-39 free throws in the second half. Hancock finished 32-for-64 at the line, while Barstow was 33-of-47 in the 2-hour, 38-minute marathon.

Other scoring leaders for Hancock included 20 points each by Luis Gomez and Jason Davis, while the Vikings (1-8) received 20 points by Richard Collins, while Bryan People posted 14 pointd and 10 boards.

Gauchos gallop past Griffins, gain finals berth

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (12-4-05) -- For the second time this season, powerful Saddleback College provided proof why they are annually one of the top basketball programs in the state. The Gauchos forced 32 turnovers on defense, while shooting a solid 52 percent from the floor on offense, together equaling a 103-32 blowout of Grossmont College in Saturday's (Dec. 3) semifinals of the 34th annual Grossmont Invitational.

Five players scored in double figures for Saddleback (8-1), including a game-high performance by forward Tremaine Ford-Townsend, who came off the bench to pour in 22 points. Meanwhile, forward KEVIN SMITH provided a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, as the Gauchos also dominated on the glass with a 42-20 advantage.

Grossmont's few points came from the outside, paced by CASEY McROBERTS-HIGHT (8 points), STEVEN COLLINS (7) and MAURICE CLADY (6).

Griffins guard Maurice Clady studies his opposition while operating from the point to defeat Allan Hancock, 71-68.
(Photo by Frank Gregorek ©)
Griffins take opener
in 34th annual tournament

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (12-3-05) -- Grossmont College knocked off Santa Maria's Allan Hancock, 71-68, Friday night (Dec. 2) to reach the semifinals of the 34th annual Grossmont Invitational. The Griffins face Saddleback in Saturday's (Dec. 3) semifinals, a team Grossmont lost to by 20 points in an earlier meet this season. A victory sends the Griffins (3-3) into Sunday's championship game at 6 p.m.

It was a game of balanced offense for the Griffins, who received double digit scoring from STEVEN COLLINS (13 points), MIKE FITZHUGH (13 points, 12 rebounds), BRETT ALLRED (13 points) and TROY VALENCIA (11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists in 38 minutes).

The biggest edge in this game came at the free throw line where the Griffins netted 20 of 28 free throws compared to Hancock's 15-for-29 shooting from the charity stripe.

Close calls have been Grossmont's moniker thus far. Five of the Griffins' six games have been decided by five points or less. Only Saddleback, an 86-63 win over the Griffins in the first round of the Fullerton Tournament on Nov. 17, has won going away.

Grossmont built a 42-32 lead in the first half, but the Bulldogs came out fast for the final 20 minutes. "They came out like gangbusters," Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said.

With three minutes left, Hancock took its only lead of the game 55-54. But the Griffins fought back, tying three times -- the final time at 66-66.

"It went right to the wire," Weber added.

With 8 seconds left, and Grossmont clinging to a 69-68 lead, Allred grabbed a defensive rebound following a missed Bulldogs free throw and was fouled. Allred hit both free throws to seal the win for Grossmont.

Riverside 85, Cuyamaca 73 -- Riverside guard Rodney Yearby poured in 25 points, helping the Tigers to mount a 13-point halftime lead and allowed RCC to coast past visiting Cuyamaca College, 85-73, in Friday's non-conference contest.

Coyotes guard JAMESON FRANCISCO tried to match Yearby by scoring a team-best 20 points, but Riverside (6-3) dominated on the boards, including 19 offensive rebounds to keep the ball away from the Coyotes (4-4).

NATE REED added 15 points for Cuyamaca, while MARLON PIERCE had 13 points and four assists.

Coyotes claim Citrus consolation crown

East County Sports.com
GLENDORA (11-28-05) -- Early returns among Pacific Coast Conference basketball teams indicate Cuyamaca College is a bona fide contender in this year's eight-team race.

Sure, the Coyotes sport only a so-so 4-3 record at the moment. But two of those losses have come in overtime. More importantly, the caliber of competition has come against some of the state's best.

The Coyotes concluded a three-day venture in the Citrus College Tournament on Sunday (Nov. 27) with an 80-71 win over Santa Ana.

Earlier in that tournament, the Coyotes dropped an 83-77 decision in overtime to East Los Angeles (5-2), then rebounded to eliminate the host team 84-80.

"I'm happy with how well we are playing," Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI said. "With a little luck, we could be 6-1 right now."

East Los Angeles was a team that couldn't miss. The Huskies shot 51 percent from the floor, including 7-for-16 from 3-point range. East LA was even more effective from the free throw stripe, knocking down 28-of-34 shots (82.4 percent).

Sophomore MARLON PIERCE paced the Coyotes with 16 points and nine assists in defeat.

JAMESON FRANCISO scored 22 points, Pierce pitched in 18 and RYAN SHUMAKER added 14 as Cuyamaca eliminated Citrus.

The Coyotes capped a successful weekend by capturing the consolation win over Santa Ana. Francisco punched in 26 points and Pierce passed out a Cuyamaca record 13 assists while tossing in eight points.

ERIK JOHNSON added 10 points and Shumaker slipped in nine.

"The key for us in our inside guys," Wojtkowski said. "So go they, so go we."

Cuyamaca travels to Riverside for a non-conference game Friday (Dec. 2) at 7.

Like football team, Griffins rally from 19 down to best El Camino

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (11-26-05) -- In a script matching the football game played between the schools on the same day, Grossmont College rallied from 19 points down to defeat El Camino College, 50-49, in Saturday's (Nov. 25) non-conference game.

Guard MAURICE CLADY drained his only baskets of the game to put the Griffins in front. He drained a 3-pointer for a 45-44 lead with 2:27 remaining, then stole the ball and raced to an uncontested layin and a 3-point lead.

El Camino cut the lead back to one, but forward MICHAEL FITZHUGH added a foul shot, then tipped in a miss for a basket with 39 seconds left. Fitzhugh paced the Griffins with 13 points, 11 coming in the second half.

The teams were even early at 4-all, then the Warriors went on a 20-1 run, as the Griffins made just a single foul shot and no buckets over a span of 9 minutes, 53 seconds. But the defense turned up the intensity, allowing just 19 second-half points to the Warriors, who shot 7-for-21(33 percent) from the floor over the final 20 minutes.

Angelo Hughes paced El Camino (3-4) with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Kevin Wilson added 13 points. For Grossmont (3-3), center BRETT ALLRED had seven of his nine points in the first half, also adding nine rebounds.

Canyons claims East County basketball crown

East County Sports.com
IRVINE (11-19-05) -- Less than a week after downing Grossmont College, the College of the Canyons took out East County's other community college entry, as the Cougars bounced Cuyamaca College, 66-58, in Friday's (Nov. 18) consolation semifinals of the Spectrum Classic at Irvine Valley College.

Canyons (3-3) trailed at the half, 30-28, but turned on the defense in the second half, limiting the Coyotes (2-2) to just 33-percent shooting from the floor. Just like in the Grossmont game, guard Andre Murray paced the Coyotes (2-2) with 12 points and five assists, while Shant Bicacki added 11 points.

Cuyamaca guard MARLON PIERCE bounced back from a poor showing in the tournament opener to lead all scored with 22 points. The Helix High product also added five assists, while JAMESON FRANCISCO added 18 points and four assists.

Antelope Valey 69, Grossmont 68 (OT) -- Just like Cuyamaca, the Griffins didn't find playing in Orange County to their liking, allowing a 4-point lead to slip as the Antelopes of Lancaster rallied for the overtime victory in the consolation semifinals of the Fullerton Invitational.

In the closing seconds, Grossmont (2-3) was called for a mysterious charging foul with 30 seconds to play, then AVC was the benefactor of a touch foul in the final seconds, making both foul shots to send the contest into the extra session.

Then in the overtime, the Marauders scored seven of their nine points from the foul line, finishing with 38 FT attempts to Grossmont's 13 free throws; total fouls were 30-16.

Both Cuyamaca and Grossmont are eliminated from their respective tournaments and won't play on Saturday. Cuyamaca next participates in the Citrus Classic, Nov. 25-27. Meanwhile, Grossmont opens a 4-game homestand by entertaining El Camino on Nov. 26 at 3 p.m. before hosting its 34th annual Grossmont College Invitational, Dec. 2-4.

Coyotes, Griffins, fall short in OC tournament openers

East County Sports.com
IRVINE (11-18-05) -- Cuyamaca College mounted a dramatic comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit, but still fell to 8th-ranked Mt. San Jacinto, 81-70 in overtime, in Thursday's (Nov. 17) opening round of the Spectrum Classic at Irvine Valley College.

The Coyotes drained 7-of-10 3-point shots in the second half to catch the Eagles at 66-all. But massive foul trouble finally did them in, as Mt. San Jacinto (3-1) downed 27-of-35 chances at the foul line, while Cuyamaca downed just 7-of-12 free throws in suffering its first loss of the season.

Sophomore JAMES FRANCISCO paced the Coyotes with 24 points and six rebounds, draining five 3-point shots, while freshman LUKE KELLEY added 13 points. The Eagles received a game-best 25 points from DeWayne Green.

Cuyamaca (2-1) will meet College of the Canyons in Friday's (Nov. 18) consolation semifinals at 1 p.m.. A victory will allow the Coyotes to meet the winner between Southwestern and the host Lazers on Saturday (Nov. 19).

Fullerton Tournament
Saddleback 86, Grossmont 63 --
The Gauchos jumped to a huge early lead to whip Grossmont in the opening round of the Fullerton Tournament on Thursday (Nov. 17).

Only one member of the Griffins scored in double figures, as CASEY McROBERTS-HIGHT scored 10 points, while MAURICE CLADY collected nine.

The Griffins (2-2) will meet Antelope Valley in Friday's 1:30 p.m. consolation semifinals. The Marauders fell to L.A. Southwest, 87-75.

Canyons defeats the Griffins, but not in football

East County Sports.com
EL CAJON (11-16-05) -- Following a 10-point outburst by College of the Canyons to snap a 47-all tie, Grossmont College fought back and attempted a series of three 3-point shots to force overtime over the final 21 seconds, but none would fall, as the Cougars escaped with a narrow 74-71 decision over the host Griffins.

The frantic finish saw Grossmont guard MAURICE CLADY cap his team-high 19 point effort with a 3-ball to trim the deficit to three with 34 seconds left, then TROY VALENCIA forced a turnover when he tied-up the ball with Canyons guard Andre Murray in the backcourt, with the possession arrow pointing the was of Grossmont.

However, three shots from beyond the arc all bounced off the rim, sending the Griffins (2-1) to their first setback of the season. Canyons moved to 2-2.

"I'm not pleased with the loss, but I am pleased with the way we played," said Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER. "We took 23 3-point shots, which is a few too many, but we didn't play loosy-goosy with the ball, as every one of those shots came from passes within our offense. If we made even one or two more of them, we would've won."

Murray, in his first prolonged action of the season due to strep throat, paced the Cougars with 24 points, downing 8-of-11 shots from the field.

Valencia led the Griffins with nine rebounds and four steals, but the team shot just 34 percent from the field, yet stayed close by hitting 11-of-12 foul shots in the second half.

Grossmont next plays in the Fullerton Tournament, starting Thursday.

Coyotes are the real deal, capture own tournament; Griffs win, too

RANCHO SAN DIEGO (11-13-05) -- Rising to among the best teams locally in the Pacific Coast Conference, Cuyamaca College let it be known over the weekend that the Coyotes plan to be among the upper crust among Southern California community college men's basketball programs, too.

After whipping Barstow in Friday's (Nov. 11) opening round of the Cuyamaca Tip-Off Tournament, 82-60, the Coyotes rallied from an 8-point, first-half deficit to bounce traditional power Santa Ana, 77-71, to claim Saturday's (Nov. 12) championship contest.

Helix High product MARLON PIERCE finished a basket short of the Cuyamaca single-game scoring record, collecting a game-high 34 points to power the offense and land a berth on the all-tournament team. However, it was the defense of Coyotes guard JAMES FRANCISCO that netted the MVP award for the Montgomery High alum.

Francisco limited Santa Ana scoring leader Terrence Hundley to just six points after the guard poured in 25 points in Friday's first-round victory over Imperial Valley.

''Santa Ana is a very good team and Hundley has already signed to play for UC Riverside next year,'' noted Cuyamaca coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI. ''James was able to hold him down, then we were able to execute when we had the ball. He had a great game.''

The Dons' Sean Luecke downed four of his first five shots to give Santa Ana a 21-13 lead. However, Cuyamaca rallied by taking care of the basketball, committing just four turnovers in the second half.

Pierce tied the contest on a short jumper to tie the contest, then stripped the point guard for a steal and a breakaway layin to give Cuyamaca (2-0) a 35-33 lead. Cuyamaca then capped a 21-10 run as center CLINTON SHELTON (Helix) shocked the Dons by twice taking-the-charge for Santa Ana offensive fouls, then Shelton made a sharp pass to a wide-open Pierce, who drained a 3-ball to push the advantage to eight.

Santa Ana (1-1) trimmed the lead down to three in the final minutes, but Pierce went 9-for-10 at the foul line down the stretch to seal the triumph.

LUKE KELLEY came off the Coyotes bench to score nine points, and record a team-high four assists, also earning an all-tournament berth. Shelton also paced both teams with nine rebounds and added three assists.

''Luke and Clinton gave us a lot of energy, along with MICHAEL OKENWA,'' added Wojtkowski. ''We had solid play off the bench and it helped a lot.''

Hundley and Luecke also were named all-tournament.

Cuyamaca returns to action on Thursday (Nov. 17), meeting another Top Ten ranked team in the Southland in Mt. San Jacinto in the first round of the Irvine Valley Tournament, starting at 4 p.m. On Friday, the Coyotes will meet either Long Beach City or College of the Canyons.

Glendale Tournament
Grossmont 55, Santa Barbara 51 --
GERRED LINK didn't break the scoring bank, but he did the little things that help teams win championship games in Saturday's (Nov. 12) finals of the Glendale Tournament.

''You know, stuff like saving a pass from going out of bounds or making key stops when the game is on the line,'' Grossmont coach DOUG WEBER said.

Link, who scored 25 points in a season-opening victory over host Glendale the night before, was named the tournament's MVP.

''It's nice to start the season with a couple of big wins on the road,'' Weber said.

The Griffins (2-0) trailed 31-23 at the half, but scrambled back and finally took a lead with five minutes remaining. The advantage switched hands a couple of times before MAURICE CLADY sank a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left, giving Grossmont a four-point lead.

Clady finished with 8 points and 4 assists. BRETT ALLRED paced Grossmont with 11 points.

The Griffins tip off the home season hosting College of the Canyons on Tuesday (Nov.15) at 6 p.m.

UPDATE (10-14-05) -- For his efforts, Link, a 6-foot-1 sophomorew guard from Van Nuys who attended Chaminade Prep in West Hills, was also named Pacific Coast Conference male athlete of the week.

Glendale Tournamnt
GLENDALE (11-11-05) -- GERRAD LINK scored a career high 25 points to lead Grossmont College to a season-opening 78-73 victory over Glendale in Friday's first round of the Vaqueros Invitational at Glendale College.

''It feels so good to get that first win out of the way on opening night,'' Griffins coach DOUG WEBER said. ''We were solid from end to end. That's a real plus for this early in the season.''

TROY VALENCIA added 14 points, while freshman point guard MAURICE CLADY contributed six points, six assists and three steals to the Griffins' winning effort.

Grossmont takes on Santa Barbara City College for the Glendale Tournament championship Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Griffins open their home season on Tuesday (Nov. 15) by hosting College of the Canyons at 6 p.m.

Cuyamaca Tip-Off Tournament
Cuyamaca 82, Barstow 60 --
The Coyotes came out of the gate howling from the get-go as they defeated the visiting Vikings Friday night to qualify for Saturday's championship of the 5th annual Cuyamaca Tipoff Tournament at 1 p.m. The Coyotes will take on perennial power Santa Ana for the brass ring.

JAMES FRANCISCO poured in 26 points to pace the Coyotes to the season-opening win over Barstow. LUKE KELLEY added 13 points and NATE REED tossed in 12 points and dished off 3 assists. CLINTON SHELTON grabbed 5 rebounds and MARLON PIERCE handed out 5 assists.

Tournments beckon for local teams

EL CAJON (11-8-05) -- Both East County community college men's basketball programs will open with tournament action this weekend, as Cuyamaca College will host its annial 4-team tournament, while Grossmont travels to L.A. to partake in the Glendale Tournament.

At Cuyamaca, the Coyotes (12-13 overal last season) will play in the second part of a doubleheader. The opener features Pacific Coast Conference rival Imperial Valley against Santa Ana at 5 p.m., followed by the Cuyamaca and Barstow. On Saturday, both losers meet in a consolation affair at 11 a.m., followed by the title contest at 1 p.m.

The Griffins (3-22) hopes to put memories of six forfeit losses aside when they meet the host Vaqueros in the first-round of the Glendale Tournament.

Cuyamaca College basketball program to host pair of special events

East County Sports.com
RANCHO SAN DIEGO (10-23-05) -- The Cuyamaca College men's basketball program is sponsoring two special events over the final week of October, hosting the 8th annual Wheelchair Basketball Ftesival and the annual Coyotes Alumni Game.

In conjunction with Cuyamaca's celebration of Disabilities Awareness Week, players from Race Express will participate in exciting wheelchair action on Wed., Oct. 26, starting an noon. Members of the Coyotes will also battle -- utilizing wheelchairs, too. The public is invited to attend.

Three days later, on Sat., Oct. 29th, selected former Coyotes will play against the current Cuyamaca varsity at 5 pm. Head coach ROB WOJTKOWSKI will welcome players from the first seven seasosn of Coyotes basketball in the kickoff to the 2005-06 season.

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Pacific Coast Conference

2005-06 - FINAL
Imperial Valley
San Diego City
San Diego Mesa

COA Playoffs
South Regional -- First Round
Wed., Feb. 22nd
Saddleback 67, Cuyamaca 45
Mt. San Antonio 96, Palomar 90

Sat., Feb. 18th
San Diego City 68, Cuyamaca 55
Southwestern 83, Grossmont 67
Palomar 115, San Diego Mesa 97
Imperial Valley 61, MiraCosta 56

Wed., Feb. 15th
Palomar 85, Cuyamaca 80
MiraCosta 87, Grossmont 67
Imperial Valley 84, San Diego City 68
Southwestern 110, San Diego Mesa 96

Sat., Feb. 11th
Cuyamaca 82, Imperial Valley 70
Grossmont 115, San Diego Mesa 92
Palomar 79, Southwestern 72
San Diego City 79, MiraCosta 71

Wed., Feb. 8th
Cuyamaca 101, San Diego Mesa 74
Imperial Valley 71, Grossmont 67
Palomar 89, San Diego City 85
Southwestern 76, MiraCosta 67

Sat., Feb. 4th
Cuyamaca 68, MiraCosta 62
Palomar 99, Grossmont 69
Imperial Valley 65, Southwestern 64
San Diego City 105, San Diego Mesa 88

Wed., Feb. 1st
Southwestern 67, Cuyamaca 65
San Diego City 65, Grossmont 63
San Diego Mesa 94, Mira Costa 87
Palomar 76, Imperial Valley 65

James Francisco of Cuyamaca College beats Grossmont's Troy Valencia to the basket for this inside shot, helping the Coyotes remain tied first in the Pacific Coast Conference.
(Photo by Greg Eichelberger)

Sat., Jan. 28
Cuyamaca 73, Grossmont 65
San Diego Mesa 96, Imperial Valley 92
Palomar 68, MiraCosta 62
Southwestern 94, San Diego City 82

Wed., Jan. 25
Grossmont 61, Southwestern 59
Cuyamaca 61, San Diego City 59
Imperial Valley 95, MiraCosta 53
Palomar 95, San Diego Mesa 91

Sat., Jan. 21
Palomar 90, Cuyamaca 81
MiraCosta 77, Grossmont 57
San Diego City 78, Imperial Valley 58
Southwestern 110, San Diego Mesa 99

Wed., Jan. 18
Cuyamaca 74, Imperial Valley 69
Grossmont 82, San Diego Mesa 79
San Diego City 73, MiraCosta 52
Palomar 85, Southwestern 67

Sat., Jan. 14
Cuyamaca 102, San Diego Mesa 87
Imperial Valley 56, Grossmont 51
Palomar 82, San Diego City 77, OT
MiraCosta 91, Southwestern 90

Wed., Jan. 11
Cuyamaca 79, MiraCosta 55
Palomar 70, Grossmont 65
San Diego City 85, San Diego Mesa 71
Imperial Valley 70, Southwestern 59

Sat., Jan. 7
Cuyamaca 66, Southwestern 55
Grossmont 76, San Diego City 63
Imperial Valley 104, Palomar 103, 2-OT
MiraCosta 94, San Diego Mesa 87

Wed., Jan. 4
Cuyamaca 67, Grossmont 58
Palomar 70, MiraCosta 66
Southwestern 62, San Diego City 61
Imperial Valley 96, San Diego Mesa 89


RECORD: 18-13 overall, 10-4 PCC
Nov. 11a-BARSTOW
Nov. 12a-SANTA ANA
Nov. 17b-Mt. San Jacinto
Nov. 18b-Coll. of the Canyons
Nov. 25 c-East L.A.
Nov. 26 c-at Citrus
Nov. 27 c-Santa Ana
Dec. 2at Riverside
Dec. 13at Santa Ana
Dec. 15 d-Mott College (Mich.)
Dec. 16 d-San Diego City
Dec. 17 d-Southwestern
Dec. 28 e-Mt. San Antonio
Dec. 29 e-So.Puget Sound(WA)
Dec. 30 e-MiraCosta
Jan. 7*at Southwestern
Jan. 14*at San Diego Mesa
Jan. 18*at Imperial Valley
Jan. 25*at San Diego City
Jan. 28*at Grossmont
Feb. 4*at MiraCosta
Feb. 15*at Palomar
Feb. 22**at Saddleback
+ Overtime
a-Cuyamaca Tournament
b-Irvine Valley Tournament
c-Citrus Tournament
d-Saddleback Tournament
e-Santa Ana Tournament
*Pacific Coast Conference contest
**COA State playoffs -- South regional

RECORD: 8-20 overall, 4-10 PCC
Nov. 11a-at Glendale
Nov. 12a-Santa Barbara
Nov. 17b-Saddleback
Nov. 18b-Antelope Valley
Photo Gallery
Dec. 2

Photo Gallery

Dec. 4c-CUESTA
Dec. 8d-Cypress
Dec. 9d-Allan Hancock
Dec. 17at Barstow
Dec. 28e-East Los Angeles
Dec. 29e-Glendale
Jan. 4*at Cuyamaca
Jan. 7*at San Diego City
Jan. 14*at Imperial Valley
Jan. 25*at Southwestern
Feb. 4*at Palomar
Feb. 11*at San Diego Mesa
Feb. 15*at MiraCosta
Photo Gallery

a-Glendale Tournament
b-Fullerton Tournament
c-34th annual Grossmont Tournament
d-Santa Barbara Tournament
e-San Diego Mesa Tournament
*Pacific Coast Conference contest


Cuyamaa College
Athletics Website

Grossmont College
Athletics Website

Commission On Athletics

Pacific Coast Conference

2004-05 - FINAL
San Diego City
Imperial Valley
San Diego Mesa


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