After losing its conference home opener to East Los Angeles College, the Lancers men’s basketball team (15-5, 3-1) has continued to grow under ninth year head coach Michael Swanegan, winning three straight games.
With a tough non-conference schedule behind them, Swanegan believes his team has been tested in order to prepare them for the tough South Coast North Division.
“Our conference is pretty tough,” Swanegan said. “I believe playing on the road early in the season has helped us tremendously because we’re a road-tested team and we know what it takes to win on the road and in close games.”
Although the Lancers are led by the sophomore tandem of Taj Spencer, 18.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and Jeffrey Dockett, 15.1 points, 3.9 assists, the development and emergence of new starters like shooting guard Adrian Miles and 6-foot-7 center Faruk Oyalade are just as important as the team’s star duo.
“Right now he (Miles) is progressing pretty well in terms of shot selection,” Swanegan added. “He hit some big shots for us against Mt. SAC and you can tell he’s really starting to come into his own.”
In their 70-63 win against defending CCCAA state champion Mt. San Antonio College, Miles recorded a team high 19 points, scoring 14 points in the second half.
“AJ (Miles) has really stepped up for us when we needed him most,” Spencer added. “He’s probably the most consistent shooter on our team and he brings a fire and burst of energy and athleticism to our team.”
With Spencer on the bench in foul trouble against Mt. SAC, Oyalade sank 11 of 16 free throws in the second half (12-for-18 overall), tallied 14 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.
Miles and Oyalade combined for 27 of the team’s 42 second-half points and Swanegan admitted to being impressed with the development of his freshmen.
“Against Mt. SAC we were really tested but we never gave up.” Swanegan added. “We have a good group of young talent, and right now everyone is starting to understand what we expect of them.”
Since being added into the starting lineup, both Miles and Oyalade have helped the Lancers on both sides of the ball. Miles is averaging 10.1 points and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 40% from behind the three point arc. Oyalade is averaging 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds playing next to standout forward Spencer.
“We have a team that plays hard and plays well together,” Swanegan said. “I still don’t think we’ve reached our full potential yet, but they are figuring out how to play at this level and learning every game.”
“AJ (Miles) is a threat anywhere on the court,” sophomore forward Rashad Smith added. “You have to guard him and respect his shot because he can drain threes all day.”
In their overtime victory at home against Los Angeles Trade Tech, the Lancers almost let a 19 point lead slip away.
Led by Taj Spencer’s 32 points and 11 rebounds, the Lancers were able to overcome a four point overtime deficit and outlast the Beavers 88-87.
Dockett finished the game with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Oyalade added 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out. Miles put together a well-rounded effort with eight points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“We’re on a pretty good roll right now, Swanegan added. “We let Trade Tech back into the game, but we kept our composure in the overtime.”
Ranked No. 12 in Southern California, the Lancers have won nine of their last 10 games and remain tied for first place in the South Coast North Division.
“We have a team that likes each other.” Swanegan added. “I don’t care how much talent you have, if you have controversy on the team it can mess everything up. Any five that we put on the floor is capable of doing anything we ask of them at their positions.”