Coyotes Punch Ticket to State Tourney

By Eduardo Miranda | The Daily Independent | 03/09/24
Cerro Coso Basketball Coach cutting down net after win.

It came down to the wire between the Cerro Coso Coyotes and San Bernardino Valley Wolverines in the Southern California Regional Final for a trip to the State tournament. For the final 22 seconds the huge crowd of fans in Cerro Coso gym were on their feet cheering the home team as they stole the in-bound pass with 0.3 seconds left on the clock to secure a 69-67 win and storm the court to celebrate the first state bound team in the college's history.

"Words cannot fathom how proud I am of this group and what they did buying into everything that I preached. I'm just so happy for them," said Head Coach Chris Dugan on reaching the state tournament. "I'm happy for every single other player who has been a part of our program. I'm happy for the support staff, for the community, and I'm happy for the college. It's something that is so beautiful and Ridgecrest has grown on me. I don't think we could live it up like this in any other city. If we didn't have that crowd here tonight, there is no chance that we win. Baseball team and all of them, this is not only for us but for them too."

The Coyotes did not have the best start in the first half watching the visitors go on a 6-0 run and build a 26-18 lead with less than 7 minutes left. During the Wolverines run to a double-digit lead, the Coyotes struggled in two areas, turnovers and second chances. They turned the ball over and let the Wolverines win the battle on the board. But a late run in the first half saw them hold the visitors to one shot opportunity and limit turnovers. In three minutes, the Coyotes cut the deficit to 33-28 and went into the half trailing by two, 37-35.

The second half began much like the first with the Wolverines going on a 7-0 run that forced Coach Dugan to call a timeout with 17:43 left in the game. During that timeout, Dugan had a fiery exchange with his players calling on them to play up to their potential and talent. That lit a fire in the Coyotes as they cut the lead to one, 44-43 with 14:14 left on the clock. From that point on the Coyotes and Wolverines traded buckets until the home team took the lead for the first time on an alley-oop from Darnell Turner Jr. to Malachi Greenwich for a 49-47 lead. The Coyotes built a nine-point lead but the Wolverines cut the lead to one, 68-67 with 44 seconds left in the game. The Coyotes had a chance to build the lead but Trent Gordon, Turner, and Destin Jenkins went a combined one for four from the free throw line. But two defensive stops, a forced travel call and a steal on the final in-bound play, solidified the Coyotes win and ticket to state.

"We just don't rebound and free throws, we tried to give that game away. We can defend but it's when we want to and motivated to go and do it. And we found a way. I'm not happy with how we defended but so be it," Dugan said on the game and his team reducing turnovers and second chance points. "Live ball turnovers and second chance points that's what it has always been about and what we preach. We talked about the keys to success; we know what to do live ball turnovers and offensive rebounds. And remember what we said, all roads lead through San Bernardino right. And that's what it was. They beat us twice in league and we had a chance to beat them and we did."

The Coyotes finished with two players scoring in double digits led by Greenwich with 24 points and four rebounds off the bench. Gordon had 15 points with four rebounds and an assist. Turner had nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. Sincere Edwards had eight points, six rebounds, an assist, and three steals. The Coyotes shot 55.6 percent from the field, 52.9 from the three-point line, but 58.8 percent from the charity stripe. The defense held the Wolverines to 37.9 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from the three-point line.

The Coyotes will play in the 3C2A State Championship tournament being held at Mt. San Antonio College beginning on Thursday, March 14th. Dugan spoke on getting to continue to coach his team in the state tournament.

"I'm in shock. We have been preaching give me seven more days, give me three more days. I told them give me six more days and I get six more days with the greatest group of guys that I couldn't be happier to be around. I get to spend time with them and they are a good group," he said. "And it's going to come to an end, it always comes to an end. You think you can't set a goal of let's go win a state championship but it's going to come to an end next week regardless if you win or lose. I get six more days with a great group of guys that want to be great and do all the things that I ask them to do. And it's a two-way street, and I'm different when it comes to coaching. I'm not easy to play for, I'm demanding, I'm on them, and most guys probably want to fight me but you know what I care about them. All that hard work this is what it's for."

The Coyotes are now waiting to learn who and when they will play in the state tournament.

Update: The Coyotes first game in the tournament is against the West Valley College Vikings. The game begins at 3:00 pm this Friday, March 15.

Read the full recap with box score.

Caption: Coach Chris Dugan cuts down the net following the Coyotes SoCal Final victory.