Hancock College's guys looked very comfortable with a 19-point lead early in the second half Thursday.
In fact, Hancock coach Tyson Aye said afterward, they looked TOO comfortable.
Nonetheless, the Bulldogs emerged with a 71-66 win over underdog Chabot College at Joe White Memorial Gymnasium in the first round of Hancock's 53rd annual Holiday Classic.
The defending tournament champs are 9-5 and will face either Merritt or Los Angeles Southwest at 7 p.m. Friday night in the championship semifinals. The Gladiators (1-12) will play the Merritt-L.A. Southwest loser at 3 p.m. Friday in the consolation semifinals.
Hancock led Chabot 41-26 at halftime. Kevin Baines fattened the Hancock lead to 49-30 when he hit a 17-footer at the 17:30 mark of the second half and then, "We just relaxed," said Aye.
"We stopped being aggressive."
After Baines scored, the Bulldogs suddenly seemed hesitant on offense and didn't challenge much of anything on defense. An exasperated Aye called two timeouts in the span of two seconds, at the 16:07 and 16:05 marks, but that didn't change anything.
The Bulldogs kept turning the ball over or missing shots, and the Gladiators kept taking care of the ball and scoring consistently. Devin Smith brought Chabot to a 55-all tie, the first time the Gladiators had tied the score since the first half, when he made a three-pointer at the 7:03 mark of the second.
Smith took a sharp pass from Myckal Anderson and scored to give the Gladiators their first lead, 57-55, on a layup at the 6:39 mark. Anderson scored to make it 59-55 with 5:27 left.
The Bulldogs, who hadn't scored since the 12:11 mark of the second half, suddenly kicked it into gear afterward.
Hancock started forcing turnovers again, and Shane Carney tied the game at 59-all with a 3-pointer at the 4:39 mark.
After not scoring for 7:01, the Bulldogs went on a decisive 13-0 run. Baines put the Bulldogs ahead for good, 60-59, when he made the first of his two free throws with 3:58 mark.
Though his players lost a big lead, "They showed resiliency," to get the win, said Aye.
Javae Lampkins gave the Bulldogs a third-chance basket when he nailed a 3-point shot to make it 63-59, and the home team was on its way.
Joaquin Oropeza brought the Gladiators within 68-63 with a basket at the 1:05 mark but the Bulldogs, though they made just three of their last eight free throws, did enough to keep the Gladiators from drawing any closer.
Spirit Ricks scored 13 of his team high 16 points in the first half for Hancock, which has won three straight. Ricks also pulled down a game high nine rebounds.
Carney scored 13 points. Glenn Jordan had four assists to go with his nine points, and Trenton Mitchell added nine points.
Stephen Northington led balanced Chabot scoring with 17 points, helping the Gladiators stay competitive. Smith added 15 points, Oropeza put in 12 and Jorden Gilmete had 10. Oropeza and Gilmete eventually fouled out.
Hancock won despite going 8-for-22 from the field in the second half to Chabot's 16-for-29. By contrast, the Bulldogs were 17-for-37 from the floor in the first half to the Gladiators' 9-for-25.
Both teams shot badly from the foul line. Hancock was 16-for-28 on free throws, and Chabot was an atrocious 8-for-19.
Palomar 76, San Jose City College 47
The Jaguars (3-9) couldn't make much of anything in the second half after trailing 37-23 at halftime and the Comets (9-5) eased to the win.
Jackon Strong scored a game high 23 points for Palomar, and Corday Fairley added 18. Donald Weathersby scored 19 points for San Jose.
Cuesta 76, Bakersfield 68
The Cougars (9-8) won this match-up between two veteran Holiday Classic teams and will face Palomar at 5 p.m. Saturday in the championship semifinals.
Finn Whetstone went 13-for-23 from the field and poured in 28 points for the Cougars. Noah Saunders was 10-for-19 from the field and added 23 points for Cuesta. Josh Wilson-Murry added 11.
Tucker Eenigenburg poured in 29 points for the Renegades (6-6). Shahadah Camp popped in 22.
The Renegades were without Jamar Hammonds who is 10th in the state in scoring at 21.2 points a game.
Hancock women fall to Mt. San Jacinto
After climbing to within four points of the third-ranked team in the state, the Hancock College women’s basketball team could not climb any closer and fell 80-49 to Mt. San Jacinto to open the 8th annual Ventura College Optimist Club Holiday Tournament on Thursday. The Bulldogs fell to 6-7 overall, while Mt. San Jacinto, the No. 3 ranked team in the state, improved to 13-1 after its 11th straight victory.
Grace Rosa erupted for 16 points in the second half to finish with a team-high 20 points for the Bulldogs. The sophomore sank a pair of free throws in the second half to pull Hancock to within 38-34 with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter. However, Mt. San Jacinto responded with a 14-2 run to close out the third quarter to build a 52-36 lead.
Taylor Lee-Hammer scored 13 points for the Bulldogs and Karly Beyers added 12. Anamarie Fruge and Kiesa Romero added two points apiece.
Three Mt. San Jacinto players scored 14 or more points led by Delacy Brown, who finished with 21 points. Kaila Gower had 17 points and Britney Thomas 14.
The Bulldogs return to action at 1 p.m. Friday in the consolation semifinals against Irvine Valley (9-3). Irvine fell 72-57 to L.A. Valley (10-6) in the first round.