The gym at Foothill College resembled a grindhouse this past weekend as opponents exploited the shot clock against the state’s top-scoring team.
Not that it worked against No. 8 Canada College, which won its third tournament of the preseason after Sunday’s 71-68 victory over San Joaquin Delta in the final of the Foothill Invitational.
“We can win any type of game is what we’re proving right now,” Canada coach Mike Reynoso said. “We still scored 71, and they for pretty much 90 percent of the game were milking the clock, spreading four corners, just holding the ball up until 21 on the shot clock.”
“We take exactly what they give us,” Canada sophomore guard Kenny Hatch said. “If you want to slow us down, we’ll slow down. But we’re all disciplined enough to run our stuff — make the right plays, the right decisions — so regardless of fast pace, slow pace, we’re going to do what we do. If it needs to be grinded out, we’re going to get that done, too.”
The Colts (12-1) crushed Delta in their season opener 78-56, but it was a different story in the first half Sunday. The Mustangs (6-3), who held off host Foothill 70-68 in the semifinals, built a 13-point lead in the first half.
“It was a lot more stressful than it has been, and that’s probably on our part not really understanding that we’re getting everyone’s best show when we come out now since people are starting to recognize what we’re doing,” Hatch said. “We’re not only playing better teams than they were in the beginning, but we’re getting everything they have thrown at us.”
Hatch, who handles ball-handling duties with combo guard Crisshawn Clark, picked up three fouls during the first half, forcing the Colts to dig deep into their bench.
In came seldom-used Thomas Alexandre, a 6-foot-1 freshman who scored a season-high eight points, draining a couple of 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 42-36 at the half.
“If we didn’t have him come in and give the buckets he did in the first half, we obviously would not have been in the game,” Reynoso said. “It would have been a way more uphill struggle to battle back in the second half.”
Before the Colts broke the huddle to begin the second half, the players got some encouragement from their coach, who encouraged them to run the show.
“When you have the trust, and the respect really of the coach to go out there and get it done, it makes the game a lot easier,” Hatch said. “He just told us it was our game, so we had to take control of it.”
Canada forward Deion Ellis got a key block late to spring Clark for a fastbreak layup. And after sitting out the end of the first half, Hatch was the catalyst on defense down the stretch, even with three fouls.
Hatch, who scored 10 points, drove to the basket in the waning moments for a couple of layins, then forced a jump ball near the end after Delta point guard Jordan Belasco, who leads the state in assists, jumped into the lane.
The possession arrow belonged to the Colts, and the turnover sealed the win.
“Kenny stayed involved, he was focused on the bench,” Reynoso said. “And then in the second half, when he got in, he was ready for his time and really had an impact defensively in the game with hustle plays that really were the key for us grinding it out in the end.”
Canada sophomore Rohndell Goodwin scored 11 off the bench and was named tournament MVP, while power forward Rodrigo Puliceno finished with a team-high 12 points.
The Colts also won tournaments at Ohlone and Monterey this preseason.
“They’re all great accolades for us, but we have our sights set on one thing, and that’s a conference championship,” Hatch said.
Canada is off for the next two weeks before returning to the court Dec. 30 at Modesto.
“Our guys have a lot of time to get healthy, focus on school and get our skill set better,” Reynoso said. “We’ll get back after Christmas and really get in there and work hard on defense again, but definitely going to have some time off. They’re all tired and it’s a well-deserved rest because they’ve been battling for a couple of weeks now.”
Email Vytas Mazeika at [email protected]; follow him at Twitter.com/dailynewsvytas.