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Vikings use fast start to topple Vaqueros, 83-66

Ben Clay, a 6-5 freshman, tallied 15 points, nine rebounds and four steals in 39 minutes. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)
Ben Clay, a 6-5 freshman, tallied 15 points, nine rebounds and four steals in 39 minutes. (Photo by Ken Sciallo / Sevilla Photography)

Long Beach raced out to a 22-9 lead in a New Year's Eve men's basketball game and went on to defeat SBCC 83-66 at Westmont College. The game was played Saturday afternoon at Murchison Gym due to new bleachers being installed at SBCC's Sports Pavilion.

Charles Smith, a 6-6 freshman, led the Vikings (3-10) with 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Mark Neal Jr. scored nine of his 17 points during the 22-9 burst in the first 7½ minutes of the nonconference game.

Ben Clay, a 6-5 freshman from Santa Barbara High, scored 15 points with nine rebounds and four steals for the Vaqueros (2-12). Robert Hutchins, the sixth-leading scorer in the state (20.9 ppg), tallied all 15 of his points in the opening half when the Vaqueros trailed 42-33. Hutchins hit 6-8 from the field and 3-3 from the 3-point stripe in the first 20 minutes.

Tyler Crandall had a season-high 12 points off the bench and Drayten Howell handed out six assists.

The Vikings outshot the Vaqueros 46.4 to 28.9 percent in the second half and 46.8 to 34.3 percent for the game. Duwane Hicks had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds and Isaiah Keys barely missed one with nine points and nine boards. Long Beach won the rebound battle 46-35.

Breamon Richard, the Vikings' top scorer at 18.2 per game, only made 1-of-10 but finished with 10 points and eight assists.

"Our offensive execution was very poor at the beginning of the game," said Vaquero coach Morris Hodges. "We took some rushed and ill-advised shots. We weren't settled out of the gate."

The Vikings made layups on eight of their first 11 baskets.

William English canned a 3-pointer to boost LBCC's lead to 17 points with 8:38 to go in the opening half. The Vaqueros went on an 18-8 run and pulled within seven (40-33) on a fast-break layup by Jesse DeVries off a pass from Hutchins.

The visitors regained control by opening the second half with an 8-3 advantage. Smith scored six in a row to stretch the lead to 50-36. The Vaqueros fell behind by 17 at 60-43, then put together an 8-0 run, thanks to back-to-back triples by Mehki Said and Chris Givens, and pulled within nine at 60-51 on a 10-foot bucket by Clay in the lane.

Long Beach had the answer again as the Vikings scored 13 of the next 14 points and took their biggest lead at 73-52 on a 3-pointer by Keyes with 4:56 to play.

"We just have to better defensively when we're guarding the dribble and make sure our help is there," Hodges noted. "And we have to be more patient on offense, at times."

The Vaqueros return to action on Jan. 6-7 in the Santa Monica Crossover, taking on L.A. Valley on Friday at 7 p.m. and Barstow on Saturday at 3 p.m.