Vaqs Beat Santa Monica in Conferences’ First Nailbiter

Brandon Hensley

Once again, the Vaqueros were outsized, and seemingly out of time against another Western State Conference opponent.

But this time, on their home floor, the shots that didn’t fall a few days earlier went in, and the execution that had been absent finally began to take shape. The end result was one of the most thrilling games in recent memory for the Glendale men’s basketball program.

Sophomore guard Deonte Wyatt had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and hit the game’s crucial 3-pointer near the end of regulation, and the Vaqs pulled off an impressive come-from-behind victory in overtime against the Santa Monica Corsairs, 84-80, Saturday night in Verdugo Gym.

Slideshow Media Credit: Richard Kontas

The win improved the Vaqs’ record to 10-8 overall and 1-1 in the Western State Conference, and exacted a bit of revenge on the Corsairs (8-8), who won in the teams’ previous meeting 70-62 in the Rio Hondo Tournament last month.

Wyatt, who had been struggling with his shot, including a four-for-17 performance last week at LA Valley, made eight of 17 shots this time, none bigger than his 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation.

Santa Monica led 70-69, but Corsairs center Bryant Crowder missed two free-throws with under 20 seconds to go. Glendale grabbed the rebound and got it to Wyatt, who pulled up behind the line on the left side and drained the shot.

With the crowd in a frenzy, Santa Monica guard Eric Bell took the inbounds pass and went the length of the court and hit a runner as he was fouled with 5.3 seconds left to tie the game. It didn’t spell doom for Glendale, though, because he missed the free throw, and the game went into overtime.

Wyatt’s shot helped complete a Vaquero comeback in a game they trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half.

“It was actually a broken play,” Wyatt said of his shot. “[Santa Monica’s Johnell] Young was jawing a little bit, telling me he was shutting me down on the play before, so I saw an opportunity and I just took it.”

Head Coach Brian Beauchemin was impressed with the play – kind of. “He made a good shot. If he misses it’s a bad shot,” he said.

“[Wyatt is] good on that side of the floor, and he had a good look,” Beauchemin said. “Sometimes it takes more than people know to shoot that ball.”

In overtime, Crowder was effective early down low. He scored two quick baskets, and the size difference for the Vaqs again reared its ugly head. The 6-foot-10, 215-pound Crowder was consistently brash the entire game, and became more animated as the game went on, even flexing both of his biceps after one particular score.

But the Vaqs’ team effort was greater. They repeatedly swarmed Crowder with Antonio Garrett, Narbeh Ebrahimian and a host of others, and Glendale took an 81-78 lead in the final minute. Matt Sinclair had a chance to tie the game, but he traveled, and Corey Davis put the game on ice with late free throws as the Vaqs held on.

Afterward, Ebrahimian kept repeating, “That was fun, that was fun.”

“We played as hard as we could, and that’s all you can ask for,” Ebrahimian said, adding that it was one of the most physical games he’s ever been a part of. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds, with most of his damage coming at the free-throw line (seven-for-nine).

On Saturday though, it was his all-around toughness that exemplified why Beauchemin has given the freshman guard big minutes this season.

“He’s one of our hardest workers,” Beauchemin said. “He’s a very committed guy to defense, and he’s willing to go through the wall for what we need to do, so those are factors that you look for from a coaching standpoint.”

One player that was back in Beauchemin’s good graces Saturday was Garrett, who had been in the coach’s doghouse recently for inadequate play. The 6-5, 205-pound Garrett provided the strength needed to handle Crowder, and he also contributed six points, all on offensive put-backs.

“He was super long,” said the self-assured Garrett of Crowder. “But he wasn’t tough, not for me.”

Garret contributed his upbeat spirit for making it off the bench and back on the floor. “I played hard,” he said. “I kept going hard in practice. That’s where it starts … you have to be strong physically and mentally.”

The Vaqs trailed early, 29-12, but only 37-33 at halftime. From then, they tied it a couple of times, went back down by five, and came back again.

“We played tough the whole game,” Wyatt said. “We kept chipping away, chipping away.”

Wyatt said he was more efficient this game because he made the effort to shoot higher percentage shots, instead of settling for 3-pointers.

“[Assistant Coach Vigen Jilizian] told me I needed to attack more, because I’ve been taking a lot more 3’s than I am free-throws, plus I wasn’t making the shots I was taking.”

Wyatt called his 3-pointer one of the biggest shots of his life. “In high school, coaches didn’t look to me for the last shot, so this is exciting.”

Glendale will look to keep it going against the Citrus Owls Saturday at 7 p.m. at Citrus.