By James Williams
The No. 19 seeded Riverside City College Tigers’ basketball team had its road winning streak in the playoffs end at three games three, falling one victory short of becoming the first team to win four consecutive playoff games on the road.
The Tigers’ streak was snapped after taking a loss to the No. 7 seeded Antelope Valley College Marauders, 87-73, of the Southern California Regional Finals game in Lancaster, CA on March 3.
The Tigers found themselves down 42-23 at halftime, after going 6-of-22 shooting in the first half.
Despite the lack of made shots in the opening half, the Tigers managed to take care of the easy opportunities, making 10-of-12 free throw attempts.
The Tigers came out strong in the second half against the Marauders, scoring 50 points and finding a way to cut down a 20 point deficit to 10 points.
“They are a very talented team but we do not focus on how talented the other team is, we focus on ourselves and making sure our execution is right,” said John Smith, Tigers head basketball coach.
Tigers guard Bernard Ireland led the team in scoring, with 21 points in the loss to the Marauders.
Guard Solomon Singer contributed to the game scoring 12 points and had 11 rebounds in a double-double effort for the Tigers. Forward Stephan Shepherd was the only other player to get in double digits for the Tigers with 11 points.
The Marauders had five players score in double figures on their team, including guard Jason Johnson, who led his team in scoring with 20 points.
This was not the first meeting between the teams this season, as the two teams played against each other in the Saddleback College Tournament on Dec. 9, 2011.
The outcome was the same as in their recent meeting, with the Marauders claiming the victory over the Tigers, 66-64.
The Tigers made the playoff bracket after knocking out the No. 14 seed Los Angeles Harbor College Seahawks in the play-in game, 67-55, which landed them a spot in the 16-team playoff field.
The Tigers also ran into other familiar opponents throughout their road journey in the playoffs including No. 3 seed Mt. San Jacinto College Eagles and No. 6 seed Saddleback College Gauchos.
The Tigers got revenge against the Eagles with a score of 79-76, in overtime of the second-round playoff game.
After rallying back from a 14-point deficit with 14 minutes remaining in regulation, the Tigers were able to force the game into overtime.
The Tigers found themselves in familiar situation, but forced a different result from when they were knocked out of the playoffs last season by the Eagles, 71-70, in overtime.
The Tigers had four players reach double figures in the recent matchup with the Eagles.
Ireland led the team once again with 17 points in the game. Guard Mason Biddle scored 16 points, while forward Jacob Straley had 14 points.
“We just stayed constant throughout the whole game, constant effort and just playing hard,” Biddle said.
Singer put up another double-double with 11 points and a career -high 20 rebounds.
He had 15 of his 20 rebounds on defense. He also had a game-high seven assists.
After getting past the Eagles, the Tigers played Orange Empire Conference Champion and No. 6 seeded Gauchos, for their third meeting of the season.
The Tigers wound up on top of the Gauchos for the first time this season, 50-41, in the playoffs for the most important game of the series for both teams.
The Gauchos won the first two meetings this season against the Tigers in conference play.
“We played each other a lot, we know each other well, so what we did for our game plan was we changed how we were going to attack them offensively without them knowing and that was huge for us,” Smith said.
The first meeting favored the Gauchos over the Tigers, 74-65, on Jan. 25 at Cal Baptist University.
The Tigers were again unsuccessful on the road in the second meeting against the Gauchos, 66-50 on Feb. 17 for the last regular season game before the playoffs.
The Tigers finished the season 17-11 and third place in the Orange Empire Conference behind Saddleback and Irvine Valley.