Glendora, CA - After winning three straight conference titles (2017-2019), the Citrus College Men's Basketball team found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Wednesday night as they started Western State Conference South Division play as not being considered the favorites by many pundits, in what is shaping up to be arguably the deepest conference in the State. That pre-conference crown seems to lie on one of two heads as 2020 kicks off, with one of those teams being CCCMBCA State #15 LA Valley College, whom Citrus hosted on Wednesday evening. The Owls bench gave them a big boost in the game, out-scoring the Monarchs subs 34-14 in a 74-64 Citrus victory.
LA Valley would nab an early lead in the contest, scoring the game's first points and leading 11-5 less than five minutes into the game. After a full-timeout by Head Coach Brett Lauer, the Owls kicked things into motion with sophomore Alex Cartwright helping key the Citrus offense, with a layup and triple to pull within one. After a missed jumper by the Monarchs, sophomore Tyree Winborn would hit a trey in transition and Citrus was off and running with a 13-11 lead.
After the early timeout, the Owls would go on a 23-9 run that saw Citrus run out to an eight point advantage after a three by sophomore Kendal Frey. The Monarchs didn't quit though and would get the Citrus lead down to a pair of points twice, including 35-37 with 1:25 to go, but Owls went into the half leading 41-37.
In the second half, Citrus slowly whittled away at the Monarch defense outscoring LA Valley 12-5 in the first six minutes. The Owls' largest lead of the game would come just past the midway point in the second frame, when a three by Winborn made it 70-51. Citrus' offense would slow over the last stretch with the Monarchs using a 13-4 run to pull within 10 with 58 seconds to go. While Citrus didn't score in the final minute, they clamped down on the defensive end, forcing a pair of turnovers to secure the conference win.
Winborn would lead all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the floor (including going 6-for-13 from downtown). Sophomore Toby Okwuokei continued his steady play with 16 points, six assists, six steals, and five rebounds. Cartwright meanwhile notched his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Sophomore James Williams was a monster on the glass with a career high 17 rebounds (tied for 4th most in program history for a single game). Freshman Leonard Turner rounded things out with 12 points, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks.
With the win, Citrus improves to 9-6 overall and 1-0 in WSC South play. The road literally doesn't get any easier as they head North to take on State #28 Bakersfield College (12-3, 0-1) for a 5:00 PM start in the Gil Bishop Sports Center.