VENTURA, Calif. - Five players, including four starters, scored in double figures on Saturday evening at Ventura College as defending champion San Diego City College notched a return to the California Community College Athletic Association Men's Basketball Championship with a 90-82 win over Fresno City College.
The win lifts the Knights (33-2) into Sunday's championship game against either Cerritos College (27-5) or City College of San Francisco (31-2), which are playing in the second semifinal. Ethan Esposito scored 18 points to lead San Diego City while Wonder Smith (15), Robert Taylor (12) and Robert McCoy (12) provided more balanced scoring among the starting five. Luis Salgado came off the bench to add 10, including a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch.
Tyus Millhollin scored 21 points in 17 minutes of action for Fresno City while Drew Cobb added 12. Jess Spivey, Eric Pierce and Georgie Dancer each tallied 10 points for the Rams (28-5).
The game was tight in the early going with the Knights and Rams exchanging the lead in the opening minutes. However, an 8-0 run by San Diego City, spurred by 3-pointers from Smith and McCoy, and a layup from Taylor, turned a two-point deficit into a 16-10 lead with 13:44 left in the half.
Isaac Davis' layup stretched the lead to 28-18 with just under nine minutes left in the half but Fresno City came back, closing to within five points with six minutes to go. But a 14-5 surge to close the half, behind scoring from four different players, helped the Knights go into halftime with a 44-30 lead. San Diego City shot 46% from the field in the opening 20 minutes while the Rams were held to just 27%.
The Knights led by as many as 15 points in the second half and held a double-digit lead until Dancer's layup with 12:39 left cut the Rams' deficit to just 56-48. Fresno continued to stick around and moved to within 72-67 with 3:43 remaining when Tyus Millhollin hit a 3-pointer and followed it with a pair of free throws a minute later.
However, a three-point play from Esposito and a pair of treys from Salgado later put the lead back into double-figures until the final minute.
McCoy added seven rebounds and three blocks for San Diego City while Smith had four assists and two points. The Knights hit 12 of 24 (.500) from beyond the arc for the game and shot 52% from the floor overall in the second half.
Tommy Nuno had a big game off the glass for Fresno, grabbing 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive side. He also led the team with three assists.
San Diego City's state championship last year was the first in program history. The Knights defeated Fullerton College, 53-51, when Darius McClain went coast-to-coast in the final seconds to put in a layup for the win. The Rams were looking for their first appearance in the title game since winning it all in 2012 over Yuba College.