The No. 1 seed in the south Hornets came out on top Saturday night and are now heading to the CCCAA State Championships after knocking off No. 7 Southwestern College 67-64.
Ending the Pacific Coast Conference champ's season, Fullerton now advances to the state dance for the second time in four seasons under the leadership of Coach Perry Webster.
The Hornets dropped in the game's first bucket (layup by Omajae Smith), but the Jaguars came out raining three pointers (7 for 11 in the first half) taking a 12-point lead by the 12-minute mark at 21-9. FC climbed out of it going a 15-2 run taking a 24-23 lead by 7:40 thanks to a put back by Ronne Readus. Both teams continued to battle it out for the rest of the half, and by the time the dust cleared the halftime buzzer sounded to a 31-31 tie.
The shootout continued for the first 8 minutes of the second half, until the Hornets made their move. With the game tied 48-48, Fullerton went on an 11-1 run to take a 10 point advantage over the Jaguars (59-49 / largest lead) that was topped off by a Dylan Banks layup. Southwestern did not fold after taking FC's best shot as they got back in the game with a run of their own (9-2) cutting Fullerton's lead down to 3 points (61-58) with a 1:08 left in the game. Lance Coleman II hit a jumper to give the FC some breathing room at 63-59, but SWC's Nathaniel Pearson answered back with a layup. The Jaguars put a scare into Hornet fans with 4 seconds left in regulation when Tyler Simmons hit a deep three from the top of the key bringing Southwestern within 1 point (65-64), but a pair of free throws by Banks eased the pain. The Jaguars tried to get off one more three to send the game into overtime, but the Hornets forced a turnover ending that notion.
Omajae Smith had a big night leading all scorers with 15 points. He also added 6 rebounds. Ronne Readus had another double-double game scoring 13 points with 12 rebounds. Dylan Banks put up 13 points with 5 steals, and Rodrick McCobb nearly had a double-double dropping in 10 points with 9 rebounds. Lance Coleman II hit some critical shot down the stretch scoring 8 points with 6 rebounds.
Up Next: The Hornets (27-3 overall) are headed to the CCCAA State Tournament where four teams from the Southern Region will join four teams from the North at Ventura College March 14-17. No. 1 South Fullerton will open up against No. 4 North Santa Rosa on Thursday, March 14th at 7:00 pm.
*Photos by Jim McCormack