It was a battle of evenly matched conference competitors on Wednesday night as the Riverside City College men's basketball squad hit the road to face off against the Cypress College Chargers in Orange Empire Conference (OEC) play. Both teams were neck-and-neck the entire game despite just three ties and four lead changes. It came down to the final four minutes with Cypress pulling within three points of a lead, but the Tigers were able to fend off the pesky Charges leading to a 76-72 win.
The playing field was pretty equal throughout the majority of the contest with no team holding a bigger advantage than seven points in the first half. Sophomore shooting guard CJ Clark paced the Tigers in the first half with eight points highlighted by a pair of threes. Freshman guard Otto Taylor backed him with six points, but Cypress cut the deficit to four points on the final possession of the second half despite freshman forward Chris Harper locating Taylor for a three pointer on the previous possession.
With the scoreboard reading 35-31 to begin the second half, the back-and-forth affair continued with no squad truly holding an advantage. Riverside put together a mini 9-2 run leading up to the midway point in the second half granting them a little cushion. Sophomore center Franky McQuay kicked off the run with a layup, backed by a jumper from freshman guard Tyree Winborn. Harper, who assisted on McQuay's initial layup, worked his way to the charity stripe and hit both free throws. Freshman guard Xavier Scott capped the run by hitting a three pointer to boast a 56-49 lead.
After Cypress pulled to within four points of the lead just minutes later, the Tigers went on a 12-4 run that found them up 70-60 with just under four minutes remaining. McQuay was a huge conduit to the success as he hit two free throws and made a layup. Winborn was the thorn in the Charger's side by hitting two triples during the run.
Despite the sizable lead, Cypress remained strong and charged back to within three points of the lead with approximately one minute remaining. However, Riverside went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final minutes leading to a 76-72 win.
Freshman forward Elbert Bibbs hit two of the free throws down the stretch, while Scott clutched up and hit three-straight. Clark capped the free throw escaped by hitting one to seal the deal.
Winborn paced the Tigers on offense with 19 points off of the bench. He snagged two rebounds and pocketed one steal. McQuay was dominate on both ends of the floor by netting 15 points, hauling in seven rebounds and recording one steal.
After beginning their conference play on a three-game losing streak, Riverside (16-8, 5-3 OEC) has rattle off five-consecutive victories and is in sole possession of fourth place. They will take on third-place Santiago Canyon (16-7, 5-2 OEC) on Friday, November 8 at home at 5 p.m.