The Lancer men’s basketball team (4-2) showed they can play through adversity this past weekend in the “Alvin Hunter Classic” held Nov. 15-17.
Playing without sophomore forward Bryce Clifton due to injury, the Lancers were down to only four bench players in their opening match against tournament hosts San Bernardino Valley College, losing 67-58.
“The team played great in the absence of Clifton,” head coach Michael Swanegan said. “You never want to lose a player to injury, but the team stepped up in his absence and did a fantastic job.”
With the injury to Clifton, freshman center Frank Oyalade got his first start of the season against the Wolverines. With the addition of Oyalade to the starting lineup, the Lancers were able to match the 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8 starting frontcourt of the Wolverines.
Against SBVC, the Lancers shot a disappointing 31 percent from the field (21 of 66) and only connected on three of the team’s 22 3-point attempts, a 13 percent mark.
“San Bernardino is one of the top teams in the state,” point guard Jeffrey Dockett said. “We played well as a team, even though we didn’t shoot the ball too well. We kept the game close and continued our pressure the entire game. We would’ve preferred the victory but we’re continuing to get better.”
Dockett recorded a team high 18 points, five steals and four assists and sophomore forward Taj Spencer added 17 points and nine rebounds, but the two combined to shoot just 12-of-33 from the field.
Arizona State commit Gerry Blakes recorded 20 points, six rebounds and seven steals to lead the Wolverines to victory. The Lancers turned the ball over 21 times and shot a disappointing 13-for-24 from the free-throw line in the defeat.
“We were right in the ball game until the end,” Swanegan added. “It was about a four point game with two minutes remaining in the game. We just didn’t execute down the stretch like we should have and it cost us the game.”
In their second game of the tournament, the Lancers defeated College of the Desert 84-71 behind 20 points and 10 rebounds from Taj Spencer. Spencer led the Lancers to victory, converting on 6-of-10 field goals and 8-of-9 free-throws.
“My teammates continued to get me the ball in scoring positions and we knew we could not lose two games in a row,” Spencer said.
The victory was a team effort for the Lancers, with all five starters scoring in double figures. Freshman guard Jonathan Henderson tallied 12 points and four rebounds, while freshman guard Brandon Joseph had his best output of the season with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Dockett added 14 points for the Lancers on 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
“Our success depends on how big Taj plays,” Swanegan said. “We’re going to get scoring out of other people but we need inside scoring, and that’s what Taj provides. He plays a big role and he’s doing a great job on the defensive end as well.”
In the Victor Valley win, the Lancers went down to the wire in overtime to hand the Rams their first loss of the season. The Rams were led by the talented duo of Kimani Lane and guard Kevin Lawson, who combined for 59 of the team’s 98 points.
Although the Rams shot 51 percent from the field (33 of 64), they were no match for Taj Spencer on his imposing night. Spencer carried the Lancers to victory by recording his third—and most dominating—double-double of the season with 43 points, 20 rebounds and five assists. The 43 points by Spencer were the third highest point total in Lancer men’s basketball history. Spencer connected on 18-of-24 shots (75 percent) and established himself early on the block.
“Taj was eating in the tournament,” Dockett added. “Everything came easy to him, and he’s supposed to do that against big time guards. He’s a good athlete and I like playing with him a lot.”
Dockett scored in double figures for the sixth straight game with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. His defensive intensity and leadership has been impressive for the Lancers so far this season. Sophomore guard Rashad Smith had one of his best offensive outputs of the season, recording 15 of the Lancers’20 bench points.
The Lancer men’s basketball team will be back on the hardwood as they host the “PCC L.L. Kennedy and Associates Thanksgiving Tournament” Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. The Lancers’ 4-2 start is the best 6-game start for the men’s basketball program since the 2010-2011 season.