Citrus guard Lateef McMullan was long on this desperation trey as time expired in Saturday’s 83-81 loss to City College of San Francisco in the CCCAA title game at Ventura College. (Staff photo by Keith Birmingham)
VENTURA – In time, the Citrus College men’s basketball team will look at the 2010-11 season as a success after advancing to the California Community College Athletic Association championship game for the second time in four years and the third time in school history.
But not today.
The Owls will, most likely, reflect on what might have been after City College of San Francisco’s De’End Parker tipped in a miss by Fred Sturdivant with 2.5 seconds left to give the Rams their first title in 49 years with an 83-81 victory Sunday at the Ventura College Athletic Event Center.
The Owls, getting 23 points from Lateef McMullan and 13 from Donte Archie, had a chance to win it, but McMullan’s 3-point attempt from 25 feet was long at the buzzer.
CCSF, led by 24 points and 12 rebounds from Sturdivant and 17 points from Collin Chiverton, finished 31-2 in securing its second state title. Ironically, the first came at Citrus’ expense in 1962.
“I thought we had some good looks at the end,” said Citrus coach Chris Victor, whose Owls finished 27-6. “We were unable to hit them.
“All you can ask is for a good opportunity, and we had that. We played hard toward the end, and unfortunately they hit the shot at the end. Box-outs hurt us all (game), offensive rebounds hurt all (game), and it came down to that last bucket.”
But at one point it looked like CCSF might run away and hide after taking a 49-40 lead early in the second half.
Then McMullan took over.
He led a surge in which Citrus made five consecutive 3-pointers to draw even at 55-55 following back-to-back threes by the sophomore, the second coming with 11:33 to go in the game. McMullan then gave the Owls the lead by hitting another 3-pointer from the top of key for a 62-60 edge before back-to-back 3-pointers by McMullan and Donnel Phifer (nine points) pushed Citrus’ advantage to 70-64 with 7:50 remaining.
“Everybody hit big shots,” McMullan said. “Everybody has been stepping up all year. We all have each other’s back, so when somebody’s not hitting there’s always going to be someone else stepping up.”
CCSF, which lost to Saddleback in last season’s CCCAA title game, countered with an 11-4 blitz and took a 77-74 lead at 4:25 following a 3-pointer by Chiverton and a layup by Jonathan Williams (13 points).
Citrus again rallied and pulled within 79-78 on a driving layup by Jacob Ranger at 2:35 before taking an 81-79 advantage on a three-point play by Shelton at 1:49.
“We played hard,” Victor said. “Those opportunities will come when you play hard.
“The run we got was because of our defense, but we also made a couple of shots.”
The Rams’ Daryl Cooper made two free throws to tie it at 81-81 with 1:36 left, paving the way for a wild finish.
Citrus, which shot just 42 percent from the field, had two chances in the final minute to take the lead. Ranger’s 3-pointer was long with 55 seconds to play. The sophomore’s steal gave the ball back to the Owls, but Sturdivant blocked an inside shot by Shelton with 17 seconds to go, leading to Parker’s putback with 2.5 seconds to play and the 83-81 lead.
Citrus got the ball to Shelton near half-court. He then passed to McMullan, whose off-balance attempt at the buzzer was long.
“For us, we try to focus on the journey,” Victor said. “This group has been extremely selfless. It’s been about the journey and the program and their teammates.
“I think when you do that, it’s a great journey. It’s a great year.”