Costa Mesa, Calif.—For the first time since the conference championship winning season of 2006-07, the San Diego Christian College men's basketball team has opened GSAC play with a win.
The Hawks built a large second half advantage and held off a late Vanguard run to capture the 74-67 win over the Lions on Tuesday night.
The Hawks are now 4-6 (1-0) on the season. Vanguard falls to 10-5 (0-1) in the loss.
"I am proud of the way we played tonight," said San Diego Christian head coach Tim Cook. "We came out with great energy which is what you need on the road. Vanguard is a great team and this is a good win to start out conference play."
The Hawks used a run midway through the first half to take control. After the Lions took a 6-5 lead, San Diego Christian rolled out a 14-0 run behind four three pointers to grab a 19-6 lead with 11:49 on the clock. Vanguard briefly brought the game back to a single digit advantage at 19-11 on a three pointer from Taylor Kelly, but San Diego Christian went on another large run to take their largest lead of the first half at 33-15 with 4:18 remaining in the first half.
The Lions closed out the half by bringing the Hawks' lead back into single digits with less than two minutes on the clock, but a pair of jumpers from Derek Dickerson and Jacob Garcia gave San Diego Christian a 37-25 before intermission.
The Hawks came out of the locker room firing, going on a 13-2 run over the first five minutes to open the half and grabbed a 50-27 lead, their largest, with 15:08 remaining.
The Lions responded and slowly began to chip away at the San Diego Christian advantage. Ennis Whatley Jr.'s jumper made it a 54-44 game with 10:04 on the clock.
Throughout the second half it seemed as if every time the Lions would complete a comeback, San Diego Christian would knock down a shot to stifle any momentum that was building.
With 4:01 on the clock, Vanguard's Kelly made a layup to take the San Diego Christian lead into single digits at 60-51. On the ensuing possession for the Hawks, Kwaminique Brandon drove and kicked the ball out to Raphael Rodriguez, who calmly drilled a three pointer to make it a 63-51 game.
On the next possession for the Vanguard, Preston Wynne connected on a three pointer to make it a single digit lead again. San Diego Christian's Kortney Maxim then broke behind the defense on the inbound for an easy layup to push the Hawks ahead 67-56.
Moments later, a three pointer from the Lions' Wynne made the deficit 67-59 with 1:48 to play. After San Diego Christian missed the front end of a one-and-one, Wynne could not connect on another three point attempt and Derrick Thompson grabbed the long rebound for the Hawks. Thompson then connected with a streaking Rodriguez for an easy layup to put San Diego Christian back in front by double figures at 69-59 with only 1:26 left in the game.
A layup by Thompson with :30 left put the Hawks up 74-61 before two late three pointers from Vanguard made it a 74-67 final score.
"I told the guys that Vanguard was going to keep coming at them," said Cook. "They (Vanguard) are excellent on the offensive end and can really score. I pointed our guys back to our non-conference schedule and the fact that we have been here before. We knew that we needed to value our possessions and take good shots on offense while stopping the bleeding and making key stops on defense."
"We were able to do that successfully and came out with the win."
San Diego Christian was led by Andy Saharan and Rodriguez with 15 points each. Dickerson added 11 on 5-6 shooting. Brandon and Thompson, the Hawks' two main ball handlers, combined for 11 assists.
Wynne paced the Vanguard attack with 23 points, while Kelly added 12 and Whatley Jr. had 11.
The Hawks shot a scorching 57.4% (31-54) from the field and 61.5% (8-13) from the three point line.