After falling to Orange Coast College 83-74 in overtime last Friday, Fullerton picked it up at home on Tuesday night beating to Santiago Canyon College 89-83 in a needed game with playoff implications.
The #12 Hornets (9-3 OEC, 20-7 overall) will have to settle for second place in the Orange Empire Conference, however the bigger picture is getting back to the state tournament once again. The loss may blur Santiago Canyon's playoff picture as they now have an OEC record of 5-6 with an overall record of 18-9. Orange Coast College locked down a share of the OEC title on Friday, but a big win over Riverside City College to night (64-48) secured it outright. It is OCC's first conference title since 1979.
The Hornets came out hot in the first minutes of the game going 11-0 over the Hawks.
FC owned an 7-point lead at the 10-minute mark, but it was abruptly cut down (20-17) by a pair of back-to-back three pointers by SCC's Shaun Maeder and Troy Rectenwald. FC made another offensive push to remain on top 26-20 at 7:11 on a pair of free throws by Rodrick McCobb.
Santiago Canyon got hot again at 4:33 going on a 10-2 run going up on the Hornets for the first time at 39-37. A Rectenwald layup made it 41-37 and by halftime FC found themselves down 41-39.
The second half proved to be Fullerton's as their defense and patience forced the Hawks to take high-risk shots. It worked. The SCC offense went stone cold shooting 29.9% from the floor and a mere 15% from three-point range.
The Hornets took the lead for good (64-63) with 6:40 left in regulation on a layup by Jason Richardson. Fullerton went on to separate themselves for the win taking a lead at 9-point lead (88-79) with 28 seconds left on two made free throws by Richardson.
It was a big night under the basket for Fullerton out-rebounding Santiago Canyon 46-26 and outscoring them in the paint 40-24.
Fullerton's Jason Richardson had a game-high 24 points, with 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Vaj Rice followed up with 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Akil Reese had 14 points and 9 rebounds. Ronne Readus had a double-double night with 13 points and 10 boards. Rodrick McCobb also added 13 points in a winning effort.
Before the game began, six Fullerton sophomores were honored for their hard work and efforts this season. Nigel Carter, Andre Kennedy, Akil Reese, Dezmond Rowen, Jason Richardson and Khalil Stevenson all played their last regular-season game in the Hornets Nest.
The game was also dedicated to Cancer Awareness as the crowd wore pink in a great cause to fight cancer. This year's theme was "Run It Back- Never Give Up". Nearly $200.00 was donated to The Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center in Orange County by folks at the games tonight. Thank you to all who donated for such a worthy cause!
Up Next: The Hornets await their fate for the playoff seeding. Stay tuned!
*Photos by Phil Thurman and Jim McCormack