The MSJC basketball team will face a very familiar foe on Saturday night as they travel to San Bernardino Valley to play in the CCCAA Southern California Regional Finals with a berth in the State Final Four on the line.
The Eagles who have won 19 of their last 20 games will take on a Wolverine team that for decades was their most intense rival in the Foothill Conference. This season with MSJC moving to the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference North Division both teams won conference titles. In the previous eight years neither team had finished lower than fourth in the conference and between them the two teams had won the Foothill title 5 times since 2006. Last season San Bernardino ended the Eagles season in the So Cal Regional Semi-Finals with a 58-56 win.
This year both teams have had remarkable seasons as San Bernardino enters the game with a 27-7 overall record while the Eagles come in at 25-4. The Wolverines 7 losses included two highly regarded out of state programs and 5 losses to teams that reached the Regional play-offs. The Eagles did not drop a game to a team that didn't qualify for the play-offs.
The Wolverines have reached the State Final Eight with a pair of home victories thus far in the Regionals. SBVC defeated Irvine Valley in round two 65-49 and escaped upset minded Glendale in the Regional Semi's 74-71. The Eagles also won two home games in the Regional as they easily defeated Ventura 78-56 and then Citrus 91-62.
Both teams have star power as well, with both boasting their conference's players of the year. The Eagles are led by Oregon bound Dwayne Benjamin who was the PCAC North Player of the Year and enters Saturday's game with a scoring average of 21.4 points per game. He also leads the Eagles in rebounding at 7.9 per contest. The Wolverines counter with Foothill MVP Gerry Blakes who scores 20.3 points per game and dishes out over 3 assists. Both stars had big games on Wednesday in the Regional semi's as Benjamin scored 29 in the Eagles victory and Blakes had 27 for SBVC in their win. Both teams are not one man shows however, each has a number of talented players. MSJC sophomore Dajuan Smith is scoring just under 14 points per game while freshman Sam Williams averages just over 10. San Bernadino's Keith Smith, Charles Callison, and Tymarieh Dixon all score in double figures as well.
Saturday night's game in San Bernardino tips off at 7 pm.
The MSJC bench and crowd celebrate during the Eagles So Cal Regional Semi-Final victory over Citrus on Wednesday night. The Eagles will travel to former Foothill Conference rival San Bernardino Valley on Saturday night with the winner earning a trip to the State Final Four. (DeeAnn Bradley/MSJC)