Short-handed Monarchs collapse against first-place Wildcats in a disastrous second half

After staying in the game through the first half, tired legs got the best of Valley College as their several second-half turnovers led to a 40-point blowout.

By Edward Segal, Valley Life Editor

Sophomore guard Jonas Holt (#20) lies on the floor injured after attempting to draw a charging foul as freshman guard Aidan Acosta (#10) stands over his teammate. (Adrian Ramirez / The Valley Star)

What started as a close match through its first 15 minutes turned into a one-sided affair when the Monarchs’ poor ball control resulted in several Wildcats’ 3-pointers and an eventual 88-48 win for West L.A.

Valley College men’s basketball (2-15, 1-5 WSC) went to a 2-3 zone on the defensive end to start the game, trapping players and effectively crashing the boards. Led by freshman forward Andre Parris, the Monarchs built their lead to five, but when the leader of the Western State Conference, West L.A. (18-3, 10-0 WSC), opened up a 12-0 run, the Wildcats took control and never looked back.

“When we play with effort, we can compete with anybody in the conference,” said Valley coach Virgil Watson. “But we just can’t sustain that right now throughout this time when we have limited numbers.”

Valley’s roster has been short six players since their return to action on Jan. 26, and with six games in the last 13 days, it took a toll on their energy level.

When sophomore guard Jonas Holt was pulled from the game for concussion protocols following his attempt to draw a charge on Valley’s first defensive play of the game, the Monarchs felt the loss of depth.

“It did not look like he had a concussion. He could still see pretty good,” said Watson. “But having one of our leading scorers out hurt us and we just couldn’t make shots.”

Through the first 10 minutes, Valley broke through the Wildcats’ full-court press and knocked down several three-pointers to keep the score close early on.

Freshman guard David Rauda (center) dribbles behind his back as the West L.A. defense converges towards him. (Adrian Ramirez / The Valley Star)

Up 12-10, Valley turned the ball over and fouled West L.A. forward Kalique Mitchell. After he missed both free throws, freshman guard David Rauda buried a long three to build the Monarch lead to five. The short-lived Monarchs’ triumph vanished with about seven minutes left in the first half as the Wildcats answered with 12 consecutive points and continued to dominate the rest of the night.

“After the COVID thing hit us and they were forced to play game after game, we’re trying to rest their legs, but their legs are just gone,” said Watson. “They gave us effort, they tried, but from the last seven minutes of the first half to the end, we couldn’t make a shot.”

Down 31-24 at the end of the half, the Monarchs’ seven-point deficit was not insurmountable, but their tired legs got the best of them.

The direction of the contest quickly shifted. The Monarchs started the second half with a sloppy offensive rhythm, turning the ball over seven times. This resulted in a 35-13 Wildcats run, allowing them to build the lead to 29.

Valley’s rebounding went downhill as their stamina decreased, and whenever West L.A. missed, the Wildcats would collect the offensive rebound and convert on their second chance opportunities.

Many Wildcats caught fire, knocking down three after three and showcasing why they are ranked first place in the conference. It was smooth sailing for the rest of the contest, as West LA cruised till the clock expired.

This is Valley’s fifth straight loss in a season that saw multiple players miss time due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols. The Monarchs played a solid first half, proving they could take on the toughest of opponents, but the exhaustion of the several guys who were forced to play 35 minutes left them with nothing to show for it.

“Just some good, really good kids who don’t quit and they give it everything they got,” said Watson. “They’re a good group of guys to be around because they are high character guys who just refuse to give the game up. They just keep playing and keep playing.”

Valley will have a rematch against the Wildcats on Wednesday when they travel to West L.A. College for a 5 p.m. contest.

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