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COMMUNITY COLLEGE MEN'S BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS : Saddleback, Long Beach Play for Spot in State


Saddleback and Long Beach City, which have split two games this season, play tonight for a berth in the State community college men's basketball tournament.

Saddleback (23-8) travels to Long Beach (28-6) for a 7 p.m. game in the final round of the Southern California playoffs.

Saddleback beat Long Beach, 89-68, in the title game of the Rancho Santiago tournament, Dec. 30. Long Beach won, 76-73, in the Fullerton tournament Nov. 19. Saddleback's one-sided victory came a night after Long Beach won a four-overtime game.

"Going to their gym at this point in the season is going to tough," Saddleback Coach Bill Brummel said.

Long Beach, which has won 11 in a row, is the third-seeded team in Southern California. Saddleback is No. 6.

This is the third consecutive year that Saddleback has reached a regional final. The Gauchos lost to Los Angeles Trade Tech last season and Ventura the year before. Saddleback last reached the State tournament in 1987, when the Gauchos lost in the title game to Ventura.

Tes Whitlock leads Saddleback with 21 points per game. Whitlock, a sophomore transfer from Arizona State, scored 26 in the 66-54 victory over Rio Hondo Wednesday.

Besides Whitlock, the Gauchos rely on balanced scoring. Antoine Jefferson, a sophomore forward, averages 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guards Derrick Walsh (14 points) and Josh Borella (10 points, 5.5 assists) and freshman forward Eric Ambrozich (11 points, six rebounds) are the other starters.

Long Beach is led by sophomore forward Kevin Beal, the two-time South Coast Conference player of the year. Beal (23 points) became Long Beach's all-time leading scorer in the Vikings' 100-83 victory over Los Angeles Southwest Wednesday.

Marcus Rogers, a guard, averages 17 and Mark Neal, a forward, 15.

Imperial Valley (21-11) is at Ventura (33-2); Los Angeles City (27-5) is at Chaffey (30-5); and Southwestern (26-5) is at Riverside (28-6) in the other Southern California finals. All games are at 7 p.m.

The four winners advance to the State tournament, which starts Thursday at UC Irvine.

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