Dominant First Half Leads To Coyotes Win Over Rustlers

By Eduardo Miranda | The Daily Independent | 12/01/23
Cerro Coso Community College Coyotes

The Dr. Raymond A. McCue Athletic Complex had plenty of fans come out to watch the No. 10 ranked Cerro Coso Coyotes play their second home game of the season against the Golden West Rustlers. The Coyotes are currently on a six-game winning streak and put together an amazing first half display that led to a 93-80 win and a seventh straight win for the No. 10 ranked team in the state.

"Really good first half. The energy and the effort was there, moving the ball and making shots, and swinging it. Second half, not so much but we played everyone. We emptied the roster, we wanted to get guys reps, and give guys opportunities," said Head Coach Chris Dugan on his team's performance in the win. "We need guys to get some confidence who don't play as much but we stopped playing the last five, six minutes they stopped playing. Again, it's an opportunity they earned the right. They practice hard every single day and that's an opportunity for them to come in and get some reps. And do the things we need to work on, and I was disappointed in that facet."

It was a tale of two halves for the Coyotes. The first half was an amazing display of solid defensive effort from making the rotations to cover a potential open shot, moving hands into the passing lanes, holding the Rustlers to one-and-done on 99 percent of their chances, and contesting shot attempts. Golden West did not score its first points until the 15:49 mark and it came at the free throw line, and the Rustlers didn't get into double digit scoring until there was 10:02 left in the half. The strong defensive led to an offensive showcase from the Coyotes. The steals and rebounds led to easy points in transition, and when the home team played its halfcourt offense, the ball movement was quick and precise. The Coyotes were able to get open looks in the perimeter and get easy buckets in the paint.

The second half, saw the visitors begin to attack the paint more with dribble drives and post play. With a 26-point lead, the players seemed content to trade buckets with the visitors. The defensive pressure was not always present in the second half, as Golden West began to get open looks and even have second and third chances. But the Coyotes first and second units had an answer and could go point for point with the Rustlers.

"We talked about it that its more about us than the scouting. Defensively, we are long, we are athletic, we are interchangeable, and making sure we are not fouling. We did a good job in the first half of not doing that," Dugan said about his team's defensive intensity. "Second half, not so much. Once we learn to defend without fouling and make guys make shots, we are hard to score around. We gave up 25 points in the first half and then gave up 55 in the second half. The effort wasn't there."

With Cerro Coso playing every player who suited up for the game, Dugan praised the second unit for their performance. He said Joshua "Coco" Escheik and Jason Morris who are good and talented players, gave them a big boost. They did a great job in the backup point guard role to help stabilize the offense when starter Eddie Gardner went to the bench. What he enjoyed from the second unit was they come into the game play the way the team plays, they defend, play really hard, take charges, dive on the floor, make the extra pass, and play the right way. They don't go out there with the attitude that it's their turn to make some jump shots.

The Coyotes had a nice crowd come out to watch the No. 10 team in the state put on a defensive and offensive performance. Dugan is pleased to see many from the community came out to watch his players and help the awareness of the program continue to grow.

"It was good and great. Obviously, the paper's support we are getting this thing out there. We keep talking about it and it's really nice and paying off. It's nice for the guys. It's nice to have a gym that has a lot of people in it and it's a fun game to watch," the Coyotes coach said. "We didn't have as many baseball players as usually do but there was still a lot of people there and it was good. I'm glad. Every win is a good win. We have gone so far but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We won the game and that is what we want to do. We are 2-0 at home and our goal is to go undefeated at home. We don't lose at home, we protect our home, and we go win games on the road."

The No. 10 ranked Coyotes continue their three game homestand with a back-to-back beginning with Porterville on Tuesday at 6 p.m., and then Moorpark on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Dugan spoke on what he wants to see from his players in those games.

"Just the effort, the energy, and being locked in to what we are doing. We did not have a good week of practice. We are playing Porterville first who has beaten a couple of good teams and they will run some good stuff. We need to handle business and then obviously rematch against Moorpark," he said. "We beat them on their home court. They are going to be coming in hot and they will want to beat us. But again, it always starts with us. We do what we need to do. We are connected, we play really hard, we always say play hard, play smart, play together. If we do those things then we are going to win because we are more talented than 95 percent of the teams in the state of California. If we don't play hard, we don't play together, and we don't play smart then we are leaving it up for people to come and beat us."

The first half began with the Coyotes taking an early lead on a jump shot from the wing by Darnell Turner Jr to begin a 9-0 run. Garner found Destin Jenkins for a three pointer, then Garner found Turner for a layup, and then he fed Turner for a dunk to cap the run. Golden West scored its first points at the free throw line going two-for-two, and the home team responded with a 7-0 run that began with a three from the corner by Sincere Edwards on a pass from Turner. Jason Morris came off the bench and scored on a layup, and Edwards scored a layup after controlling the loose ball under the basket. That led to a Rustlers timeout and the Coyotes led 16-2.

The visitors then went one-for-two from the charity stripe and the Coyotes scored on a corner three from Escheik, who came off the bench. Cerro Coso led 19-3 but the visitors scored on a contested jump shot. Morris followed with a layup, and Noah Brown, who came off the bench, was fouled on a layup attempt from a steal. He went one-for-two for a 22-5 lead. Golden West went on a 5-0 run as they began to attack the Coyotes defense with dribble penetration for a layup or a pass out for an open shot. The Coyotes snapped the run when Brown found Malachi Greenwich at the top of the key for a three pointer. Escheik hit a three with the Rustlers defender in his face but the visitors went down and scored an easy layup, which brought Dugan off the bench for a timeout and a 28-14 lead.

The Coyotes responded to the timeout with Destin Jenkins going down the lane for a dunk, Edwards going two-for-two from the line after being fouled on a layup attempt, Jenkins scoring on a putback, Trent Gordon going one-for-two at the line, Gordon getting a steal for an easy dunk, Jakwon Morris coming off the bench for a layup, and Gordon going one-for-two from the charity strip as part of a 12-1 run for a 40-15 lead. Golden West scored one point at the free throw line and Greenwich found Gordon in the post for a hook shot and a 42-16 lead. Escheik went to the free throw line and calmly hit all three attempts after being fouled, Escheik then found Jason Morris for a layup, Jakwon Morris beat the defense for a layup, and Gordon closed the half with a putback for a 51-25 lead at the half.

The second half began with Gordon scoring after grabbing the offensive rebound. But the Rustlers offense went on a 7-0 run until Turner found Gordon for a layup to snap the run and extend the lead to 55-32. Gordon scored again after grabbing the offensive rebound and on the ensuing possession scored on a hook shot from a pass by Jason Morris. The Coyotes led 59-36, but the visitors scored the next four points until Greenwich scored on a putback. Edwards connected with Jonathan Leggett for a layup and a 63-40 lead. Golden West scored on the next possession forcing a timeout from the Coyotes bench. Coming out of the timeout, the Coyotes scored when Jakwon Morris made the pass to Jenkins for a layup but the visitors scored the next five points. The Coyotes responded with a layup from Edwards from a Turner pass.

The home team led 67-49, and extended the lead when Gardner found Greenwich for an open jump shot and a 69-49 lead. Escheik went to the charity stripe and hit both attempts and Greenwich grabbed the defensive rebound, went the full length of the court for a one-handed dunk and a 73-49 lead. After Golden West scored, Gardner found Greenwich for a jump shot at the elbow. Escheik hit a three pointer on a pass from Gordon for a 78-51 lead. Brown hit a jump shot to snap a 4-0 run from the visitors to extend the lead to 80-55. Jenkins followed that with a corner three but the Rustlers responded with a three on the next possession. That started an 8-0 run for the Rustlers but Escheik hit a three from the corner from a pass by Kaleb McClendon for an 88-63 lead. Gordon hit both his free throws to extend the lead to 88-63, and after a Rustlers bucket McClendon hit a three for a 91-65 lead. The Coyotes then gave up 15 points in the final two minutes before Gordon closed the game with a dunk from an acrobatic pass from Greenwich.

Read the full recap with box score.