FRESNO — All the slick passing and showtime basketball makes El Camino College a fun team to watch, but what makes the Warriors a great junior college team is their defense.
It's aggressive, pressuring and relentless, and can make even the best opponent look helpless and confused.
That's what happened Monday night in Selland Arena, where El Camino shut down San Jose City, 37-35, to win the championship game of the California Community College tournament before a crowd of 300.
The victory, the Metropolitan Conference champion Warriors' 24th in a row, did not come easy. San Jose City, the runner-up from the Golden Gate Conference, gave El Camino problems, and only a long Jaguar offensive drought cost them an upset.
For the first 8:30 of the second half, San Jose City (28-8) didn't score at all.
El Camino (33-1), which last won the state championship in 1981, took advantage of that to take the lead for good. The Warriors trailed, 22-20, at halftime, then outscored San Jose, 10-0, to open the second half and gain a 30-22 lead.
During San Jose's scoreless streak, the Jaguars committed seven turnovers and attempted only one field goal as El Camino Coach Paul Landreaux instructed his team to turn on the defensive pressure.
"Defense is what Coach Landreaux stresses from day one," said El Camino point guard Mark Wade, the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "We can make it very frustrating for other teams."
The Warriors had their moments of frustration, too, as their offense struggled at times.
El Camino, unlike the bigger Jaguars, relies on its outside shooting to score, and when the Warriors' shooting went cold with about 10 minutes left, the game got closer.
San Jose cut El Camino's lead to 34-30 on two free throws by Curtis Bradley before Dwayne Lewis scored and was fouled to make it 37-30.
San Jose would score the next five points, but El Camino still had a two-point lead and, apparently, the win. But Lewis turned the ball over, giving San Jose one last shot at sending the game into overtime.
The Jaguars wanted Bradley to take that shot, but he was called for traveling with three seconds remaining and El Camino was safe.
Hill led El Camino with 14 points, Lewis had 11 and Wade added 7 assists. Bradley led San Jose with 14 and Arnell Jones had 11.