The No. 4 Chaffey College men’s basketball team gets a chance for redemption tonight when it travels to No. 1 Saddleback (27-4) for a playoff game in which the winner advances to the state Final Four next week in Sacramento.
The Panthers (25-6) have lost to Saddleback twice on last second shots in the Jeff Klein tenure, although the playoff format was different then and those games were to get the Panthers to the Elite Eight.
This might be the best team Klein has had. Ask a coach and they’re always hesitant to compare teams. It’s like asking a coach to picking a favorite child.
But this team has a poise and air of confidence about it others have not. The players don’t seemed overwhelmed by the playoff atmosphere and most have played together for two years, and many for three.
Klein also is blessed with depth. He uses a lot of guys and they all contribute. There isn’t much waste at the end of the bench.
Justin Long might be the best long distance shooter in the state and Sango Niang, a track standout turned very good basketball player, is a terrific catalyst on both sides of the ball. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. He never stops!
There are also solid veteran players in Ryan Nitz, Kenny Morgan and Justin Cole who don’t mind taking a backseat to the more heralded players.
The Panthers played a tough non-conference schedule and benefited from playing in tough Foothill Conference which has prepared them nicely for a playoff run.
The fact that two teams from the conference are still alive says a lot – No. 10 San Bernardino Valley College (22-8) will play No. 3 Mt. SAC (26-3) in what should be another quality playoff game.