FRESNO — It took the Grossmont College basketball team 23 years to qualify for the California Community College Tournament. After waiting that long, you might think the Griffins would want to stick around for a while.
But after 40 minutes of play on Friday morning, Grossmont found itself in a familiar position--out of the tournament.
In the Griffins' first appearance in the state tournament, they were beaten by Sacramento City, 88-79, before a sparse crowd in Selland Arena.
The difference in this game was turnovers. Grossmont (23-8), the Pacific Coast Conference champion, made 28 turnovers as its 15-game win streak, which began in December, came to an end.
Sacramento City (25-8), the Camino Norte Conference runner-up, gladly accepted the Griffins' mistakes to advance to today's second round, when the Panthers play El Camino, the top-seeded team from the Southern California bracket.
Grossmont, despite its inability to protect the ball, played Sacramento City close for one half. The Panthers did lead for most of the first 20 minutes, but never by more than five points.
In the second half, however, Sacramento City began to pull away. A three-point play by the Panthers' 6-foot 8-inch center, Kim Davis, with 14:19 left gave Sacramento City a 58-48 lead.
The Panthers were able to stretch the lead to as many as 14 and Grossmont was not able to rally.
Griffin Coach Rick Wilkerson said the pressure of playing in the State tournament for the first time may have gotten to his team.
"I think we didn't play well because we were tight," he said. "We missed shots we normally don't miss, dropped rebounds and fumbled pases.
"You are going to have bad games during the season, and unfortunately we had one today. I think because we wanted to prove how worthy we were of our seed (No. 4 seed from Southern California), it made us nervous."
Griffin guard Rodney Tention had an off game. Tention, who came in averaging 15 points, 9 assists and 3 steals, was not a factor Friday. He was a 2 of 9 from the field and finished with 9 points.
"I don't know what happened," Tention said. "I got down on myself, which I haven't done in a long time, and never got back in the game.
"We started out making some turnovers and got behind, then they pressed and we made more turnovers."
The play of Grossmont's other starting guard, Martell Johnson, kept the Griffins in the game. Johnson, who led all scorers with 29 points, continually got behind the Sacramento City defense for easy baskets.
His 18-foot jump shot gave Grossmont its final lead of the game at 24-23 with 8:05 remaining in the first half. But then, the play of Sacramento City's Rodney Fuller (23 points), Rhodney Moore (21) and Lincoln Eden (18) started to take its toll.
Reserve Moore's steal and ensuing dunk with 7:27 left did much to secure Sacramento City's win. Grossmont, led by Johnson, had went on a 10-2 scoring spurt to cut the Panthers' lead to 66-60. But two free throws by Eden and Moore's big play took away Grossmont's momentum and put Sacramento City in control the rest of the way.
Besides Johnson, Juan Espinoza (18 points) and Tyrone Muldrow (11) reached double figures for Grossmont.
SACRAMENTO CITY (88)--Drummond 6, Fuller 23, Eden 18, Davis 11, Blizzeard 3, Cruz 1, Riser 4, Moore 21.
GROSSMONT (79)--Johnson 29, Tention 9, Espinoza 18, Muldrow 11, Swier 4, Schley 2, Turner 5, Hull 1.
Halftime--Sacramento City 43-40
In other state tournament action Friday:
San Jose City beat College of the Canyons in overtime, 75-70; Butte defeated Glendale, 79-72; El Camino defeated Ohlone, 70-54; Long Beach City defeated City College of San Francisco, 83-77; and Taft defeated Skyline, 81-64.