By Michelle Gardner
PALM DESERT – With four Foothill Conference teams tied for first place on the final day of the regular season, it was only appropriate that a game between two of those came down to the last possession.
College of the Desert emerged with a 68-64 win over San Bernardino Valley College Saturday. Playoff pairings will be decided on Monday but the Roadrunners (21-9, 10-4) will likely be the third-seeded team out of the conference behind Antelope Valley (24-10, 10-4) and Mt. San Jacinto (27-6, 10-4).
San Bernardino (13-15, 9-5), which won the conference a year ago, settles for fourth. While as many as five teams have gotten in before, the Wolverines will probably not advance because of their overall record.
The game also probably marked the end of Gerry Wrights tenure as coach. His masters degree is in education rather than physical education which the school requires.
I told them it was a pleasure coaching them and watching them mature as players and men, Wright said. I enjoyed my two years year and I am going to miss them.
The game was tied at 61 with 3:01 left. The Wolverines went ahead 63-61 on a putback by Sylvester Burel with 2:15 left. It was their first lead since 30-29 at 4;14 of the first half.
SBVC made it 64-61 on a free throw by Burel but that would be the last point the visitors scored. Deserts Julius Lang nailed the first of two free throws with 1:24 left to make it 64-62.
He missed the second but SBVC failed to block out and Deserts Spencer Dayton grabbed the rebound. The end result was a 3-pointer from the corner by DAndre James that gave the host team a 65-62 lead with 1:10 to go.
SBVCs Lewis Leonard, the second-leading scorer in the state, netted 26 in the game but misfired on a long jumper the next trip down the court and Desert grabbed the rebound.
Down 66-64, Johnny Barnes missed a turn-around jumper that would have tied the game, pretty much sealing the visitors fate.
Foul trouble was a factor for the Wolverines as Wright has nine players but uses only seven. Most of the calls went the way of the home team in the opening half which ended with the Roadrunners up 43-33.
In the first 20 minutes 18 personal fouls were called against the Wolverines with 10 against Desert.
The Roadrunners had just seven field goals but went 20-of-23 from the line while SBVC shot 7-of-10 from the stripe.
Desert led by as many as 12 in the second half, that lead coming at 52-40 on a fast break layup Antoine Davis.
I was proud of our guys. They fought hard and never gave up, even when we had some things working against us, Wright said.
Lewis also had nine rebounds and two blocks. Barnes added 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Burel was the third player in double figures with 10 points.
The Wolverines went just 4-10 in nonconference play, making a better finish in conference play crucial. Desert coach Henry Viveros had words of praise for the Wolverines despite the defeat.
“It’s a shame they had such a tough time early in the season because they’re a quality team,” he said. “I think they’re one of the top 20 teams.”