The Citrus College Men's Basketball team hosted the 2017 Neil Edwards Classic this past weekend. The Fighting Owls went 3-0 over the three day span, capping off a stellar run of wins with a fiery victory over defending state champs San Diego City College in the title game.
Citrus cruised their way to the championship game with commanding wins over Moorpark and Cypress on Friday and Saturday, respectively, beating those two opponents by a total of 60 points. The Owls would carry the momentum from those wins and focus on redemption against San Diego City, as the Knights had beaten the Owls in overtime by a single point at the Fullerton College Classic on November 10th.
The Fighting Owls struggled to ignite offensively early in the title game, uncharacteristically shooting low percentages from the 3 point arc, and missing easy layups and open jumpers in the paint. But the Citrus defense kept the home team in the game with consistent pressure and good rebounding, frustrating key San Diego players who found themselves in foul trouble early.
In the second half, after Head Coach Brett Lauer's motivational halftime locker room speech, the Owls flipped a switch. San Diego was stunned early on by a strong run of shooting for the Owls, who were feeling the momentum shifting due to good ball movement and flawless execution of Coach Lauer's game plan. Citrus took a few hard hits in the defensive paint, as the Knights attacked the lane relentlessly, but Citrus wasn't on the fortunate side of the whistle and grew frustrated, committing more defensive fouls and struggling to get moving in transition.
After a timeout by Citrus midway through the half, featuring another motivational talk by Lauer, things started to click. The Owls went on scoring runs and kept the game close, coming within a few points of the Knights on many occasions, only to fall behind again with the fast paced transition game and full court defensive press of San Diego. But the bullheaded defensive play and nonstop confident perimeter shooting by Citrus began to change the energy in the gym. Jesse Elrod, who had also asserted himself defensively in the paint all night, caught fire from the three point arc, sinking clutch shot after clutch shot and ending the night with 5 three pointers. The Citrus offense was moving the ball well and San Diego struggled to rotate to the Citrus perimeter shooters, creating an opportunity that the Owls couldn't pass up.
Citrus would find itself down by 1 point with just 12 seconds remaining. Point guard Jeremy Smith, who ended the night with 32 points, moved the ball to the front court and found an isolated Elrod in the corner. Elrod pulled up immediately and with a San Diego defender closing in, sank a fadeaway three pointer to put the Owls up by 2. Citrus would hold on for the win and subsequently dog piled in celebration of the tournament title win.
Citrus moves to 7-2 on the season and will compete next at the 2017 Citrus Invitational Tournament December 1-3. They will face off against La Cañada at 7:00 PM in the Citrus Gymnasium.