The Cypress College men's basketball team didn't rely on its proven players to clinch the Orange Empire Conference championship with a 74-72 victory over Rancho Santiago Saturday at Rancho Santiago.
Cypress' leading three players all struggled. Kris Brodowski and Jeff Green were in foul trouble most of the game, and guard Jim Sammon was held to six points.
Instead, Cypress got a career-high 17 points from Greg Spruell and 12 from Karl Becker. Spruell, a sophomore guard from Carson High School, is averaging 6 points a game. Becker hasn't been playing much all season until this week.
Cypress (26-5, 8-0) has a two-game lead over Rancho Santiago (21-7, 6-2) with two games left, but beat the Dons twice this season. Third-place Saddleback (17-9, 5-3) was eliminated from the title race by Orange Coast Saturday, 45-37.
Spruell scored 10 points in the first half for Cypress, and Becker added 9 as Cypress opened a 39-35 lead.
"The coaches told me that the lanes were going to be open," Spruell said. "I just looked to penetrate and then looked for my shot."
Cypress played the final five minutes of the half without forwards Brodowski and Green. Brodowski got his third foul with 6 minutes left, and Green got his third with 5:15 left. Brodowski missed 10 minutes of the second half after getting his fourth foul with 17 minutes left. Green finished with 14 points and Brodowski 8.
Rancho Santiago rallied behind Alonzo Jamison to take a 60-56 lead with nine minutes left. Jamison scored a game-high 29 points, including 21 in the second half, taking advantage of the open middle.
But Jamison picked up his fourth foul with 8 minutes left and went to the bench for three minutes. The Dons turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions to help Cypress rally. Green scored on a layup to tie it at 62-62 with 7 minutes left, and Spruell drove for a basket 20 seconds later to give Cypress a 64-62 lead.
Spruell also made both ends of a one-and-one with 2:18 left to give Cypress a 74-66 lead.
Chris Martin made a three-point play to cut the lead to 72-69 with two minutes left but Rancho Santiago had two more turnovers in the final minute.
Cypress could have had a much easier time in the final minute except for some foul shooting trouble. Spruell missed the front end of two one-and-one situations and was called for violation on a shot by Becker.
In another Orange Empire Conference game:
Orange Coast 45, Saddleback 37--David Miles scored 13 points and Dareck Crane 12 to lead Orange Coast at home. Saddleback, which made just 36% of its field goals (16-34), was led by Joe Hudson's 13 points. Orange Coast (16-14, 3-5) led, 21-19, at halftime.
In a South Coast Conference game:
Golden West 97, Mount San Antonio 87--Golden West made 26 of 29 free throws, 20 of 23 in the second half, to pull out the victory at home. Golden West (14-14, 4-8) made 16 more free throws than Mount San Antonio (8-18, 2-10), which made 10 of 17. Markus' Muller-Stach's 25 points led Golden West. Doug McCusker and Elbert Davis each scored 21 points. Mount San Antonio's David Rice led all scorers with 27.