Cougars pride shines throughout Modesto Tournament

The Lassen College men’s basketball team took to the road on Thursday, Dec. 15 to take the Modesto College Tournament by storm.

The men played three games in total between Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 17 while at the tournament.

The first opponents to challenge the Cougars were the Cosumnes River College Hawkeyes. The Dec. 15 game did not finish in Lassen’s favor. The final score was 74-64 with the Hawkeyes taking the win.

Coach Will Freedman said, “We started the game off strong, leading by as many as 10. Then we started to play sloppy selfish basketball. We led 36-34 at halftime.”

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Clearly, a worm had made its way into the Cougar’s focus, as any Lassen fan knows the team has better focus than what was shown during the game against Cosumnes.

In the second half of the game, Lassen attempted to rid themselves of the worm, but the task was easier said than done.

The Cougars kept the Hawkeyes on their toes throughout the game as they simply refused to let go of the lead. However, with passion pouring from Cosumnes, the gap between the two schools kept within a four-point range.

Freedman commented, “Second half we couldn’t get into any rhythm offensively mainly because we weren’t moving the ball. The game was neck and neck until the last five minutes. That is when we fell apart as Cosumnes was coming together.”

The game ultimately resulted in the Hawkeyes swooping in with a win of 74-64.

Though the game resulted in a loss for the Cougars, some great plays were seen along with a few players that clearly aided in the close final score between the two schools.

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Kenny Macklin earned 12 points throughout the game. Cameron brown earned 11 points. Colby Johnson, Bruno Castillo and Danny Spinuzza all brought in nine points each.

The Cougars attributed their loss toward the effects of travel and quickly pushed the discouragement out of their minds.

Up next for Lassen was a game against the hosting school, Modesto College, on Friday, Dec. 16.

The Cougars had stepped up their game for the match against the Modesto Pirates, as they knew a home-court advantage was sure to boost the Pirates’ game play. The game was called with a final score of 81-73 favoring Lassen.

Rest assured for all Lassen College fans, the Cougars were back.

Lassen kept their humility about them for their second game of the tournament and played with more heart and strategy than what was seen the day before.

With a different starting lineup to initiate the game, Lassen’s morale was given a boost.

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Freedman said, “Our ball movement and rebounding were much better this game. The first half was anything but an offensive showdown. Both teams struggled shooting.”

Modesto’s ego inflated slightly after noticing that they were up by two come halftime. The 32-30 score should have acted as a warning, but the message clearly didn’t reach the Pirate ears.

The Cougars were all warmed up by the start of the second half, and the Modesto lack of faith came back to attack with 10 times the force they had expected.

Freedman said, “Second half we found our rhythm and led by as many as 18 points. Some mental mistakes down the stretch let Modesto creep back in, but our defense was too much for them.”

Ultimately, the Cougars added 51 points to their tally from their game play over the second half. Modesto gained a mere 41 in comparison. Thus, it was the Cougars who left the court with the win.

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Throughout the game, Castillo really stepped up to the plate and earned a total of 20 points. Macklin wasn’t far behind as he brought in a total of 18 points. Finally, Jason Moore added his name to the spotlight board as he brought in nine points for Lassen.

With one win under their belt to boost the Cougar confidence and one loss to keep humility present among the team members, the final game against the Ohlone College Renegades couldn’t come soon enough.

The Consolation Championship Game ended up with a final score of 66-63 favoring Lassen College.

The close game was entertaining for all as Ohlone and Lassen were clearly well matched.

Freedman said, “We jumped out to an early lead that ended up lasting the entire game. We led by as many as 10 points. Ohlone put together a bunch of runs trying to cut into the deficit, but they were never able to get over the hump. Ohlone is the second top five team we have beat this season; the other was Las Positas who was ranked number one at the time.”

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Clearly, the Cougars have done well enough to please their coach.

Throughout the game, Macklin brought in 15 points, Damien Trujillo earned 11, Cameron Brown brought in eight and Castillo earned eight as well.

With the tournament at its end, the Cougars were able to see just how well they had performed.

Macklin was awarded with a place on the All-Tournament Team after averaging 15 points per game throughout the three days.

Freedman said, “Macklin joins the likes of Jackie Robinson who made the all-tournament team in the MJC tournament way back in 1938.”

Referring to the team as a whole, Freedman later said, “I’m proud of how the guys persevered all month. We struggled at times this month, but how we finished really revealed our character. When we play as a team, there isn’t a team in the state we cannot beat. Now that the preseason is over we can focus on trying to bring back a conference championship.”

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It is obvious to all fans that the conference is looking to be one of the best.

Freedman also said, “Last year we finished the year 7-20. So far this year with 10 conference games yet to be played, we are 10-7 and ranked #12 in NorCal.”

The first game of the new year will be held on Saturday, Jan. 7 against Shasta College. The away game will also be the first game of the Conference for Lassen. The next home game will be on Jan. 14 against Feather River.