Citrus sours Corsairs' run at conference title

It was just two weeks ago when David Nwaba led the Santa Monica College men's basketball team to a nail-biting victory against Citrus College.

This time, the Citrus College Owls had the last hoot.

Down five to start the second half in Thursday's game, the Owls turned that deficit into a two-point lead, using back-to-back threes in the first two-and-a-half minutes, and never looking back.

Surprisingly, it was the Owls' backup center Brent Watkins who scored six points in a two-minute period that pushed the Owl lead to eight.

With the Corsairs in the middle of a scoring drought, and center Admassu Williams on the bench, there was little they could do to stop the bleeding.

Not only were the Owls too much to handle, but the referees did not make it any easier.

Down five with time running out, a whistle was blown for what appeared to be a blocking foul against Citrus. Instead, Nwaba was called for a questionable charge, which led to another Owl layup, essentially putting the game away.

Despite SMC head coach Jerome Jenkins' intense motivational tactics, it was just too much for the Corsairs to overcome.

“I thrive off of my coach’s intensity; we all do," said Corsairs' guard Adam Griffin. "When he’s pumped up, we're all pumped up.”

Despite a valiant effort from Nwaba and Griffin with 32 combined points, it was just not the Corsairs' night. The Owls shot over 40 percent from behind the arc, and had a handful of momentum boosting slam-dunks.

“I see us taking bad shots and it frustrates me," said Nwaba. "I need to take the game over more often; that’s one thing I’m lacking right now.”

Even with the loss looming, Jenkins could still be heard from the stands trying to inspire his young freshman team with words of wisdom.

“You've got to get over that hump in life," said Jenkins. "You've got to get over that hump to get to the next level."

Though the game did not turn out in the Corsairs' favor, the team was not lacking hometown support.

“It’s a 45-minute drive from Pierce, but it’s worth it,” said Christy Daugherty, Williams' high school sweetheart.

With the first round of the Western State Conference tournament over, the Corsairs defeated the Glendale Gauchos in a consolation round on Friday, led by starting guard Keilan Horton's 37 points. Nwaba chipped in with 23.

Even with a solid season in the books, the Corsairs did not qualify for the playoffs.