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Relentless Long Beach Press Flattens Canyons

March 03, 1991|JIM COLEMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Long Beach City College gymnasium, built in 1927, looks like it came right out of the movie "Hoosiers."

The benches the players sit on really are wooden benches, not chairs, and look like they belong in a backwoods courtroom. Only one of the two clocks shows seconds, the 45-second clocks on the wall do not work, and the padding behind one basket is falling apart.

Yet the Long Beach men's basketball team is a product of the '90s, pressing the length of the floor, running the break and averaging more than 90 points a game.

Long Beach, third-seeded in the Southern California regional of the state junior college basketball tournament, smothered Canyons on Saturday night with stifling full-court pressure and rolled to a 110-95 victory to advance to the state final eight at UC Irvine Thursday through Saturday.

Canyons (21-13), seeded 11th, had a pretty good press of its own, but it paled in comparison to that of the Vikings, who forced 25 turnovers--14 in the second half.

"We haven't seen anything like that. They hawk the ball and go after the ball and do something with it when they get it," Canyons Coach Lee Smelser said. "It was a pretty physical game and we're just not a very physical team. We found that out."

Canyons hung in against Long Beach's intense full-court pressure in the first half, but the Vikings (30-4) broke away in the last five minutes, reeling off 15 of the final 24 points for a 42-34 lead at intermission.

Long Beach slowly began to pull away in the second half. Getting a slew of slam dunks and layups off turnovers, the Vikings increased their lead to 66-48 five minutes into the half.

Canyons could not contend with Long Beach's bigger, more physical front line. Viking center Terry Nelson (28 points, 10 rebounds) slammed repeatedly over the Cougars, and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Victor Camper came off the bench and muscled for 14 points and seven rebounds.

"Nelson we knew was a good player, but Camper, we didn't expect him to play as well as he did," Smelser said.

Long Beach also got 21 points, seven steals and seven assists from guard Rob Goodman, and Derek Knowles and Carroll Thompson added 18 and 16 points.

Canyons, which had its school-record 11-game winning streak broken, was led by guard Nick Sanderson, who had a game-high 32 points.

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