The West Hills College Coalinga Falcons were led by four sophomores in double-digit scoring to upset host Monterey Peninsula College, 81-76, in the opening round of the 2018 CCCAA basketball playoffs.
No. 17 WHCC (19-7) will travel to No. 1 City College of San Francisco (28-1) on Saturday night in Round Two.
The Falcons trailed by 17 points midway through the first half against the Lobos, 26-9 and 28-11, before fighting back. They were sparked by a Darius Scott and-one (7:59) and a Lloyd Hanna fastbreak jumper (7:15) for a mini 7-0 run.
Scott was fouled on a 3-point attempt, and sank all three free throws - and Hanna followed with a 3-pointer in transition - cutting the MPC lead to 34-26 with 5:30 left in the half.
From there, Delvon Hightower and Landon Johnson took over, combining for WHCC's last 13 points of the half. Hightower was 4-for-4 on free throws and added a layup; and Johnson connected on two free throws, a 3-pointer, and another jumper. The Lobos led at the break, 47-39, but it was clear the Falcons were gaining momentum.
Scott opened the second half with a 3-pointer - then freshman Ricardo Time sank antoher one, pulling the Falcons within 48-47. The Lobos replied with second-chance opportunities inside and timely 3-pointers of their own to keep the lead most of the second half.
The Falcons trailed, 61-56, before their sophomores responded in a big way. Johnson and Hanna hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull within a point; then Johnson converted an and-one and Winder Joseph had the highlight of the night. Joseph drove the lane, beat his defender and spun a right-hand layup off the glass while being fouled and falling to the floor. His free throw gave the Falcons a 67-66 lead with 3:53 remaining - a lead they would never relinquish.
From there, the Falcons limited Lobo shots, created turnovers, and made clutch free throws down the stretch. The final dagger was delivered by Scott, who hit a step-back 3-pointer in the final minute to give WHCC a 75-71 lead.
Hightower led the team with 18 points, followed by Johnson (17), Scott (16) and Hanna (12).
"I'm really proud of the guys for battling back and keeping their poise," said WHCC head coach Mark Arce.
"We had some playoff-game jitters early, but we knew the tempo of the game was in our favor. In the second half, we played better defense and different guys stepped up on offense. It's a great road win for us, and we will need another big effort on Saturday against the No. 1 team in the state."