MONTEREY PARK — The East Los Angeles College men’s basketball team continues its late-season surge as the Huskies make their first ever appearance in the California Community College Athletic Association Championship Tournament.
ELAC (21-10), the No. 2 seed from Southern California, will play Merritt College (25-6), the top seed from the North, in a state championship semifinal at 5 p.m. March 13 at Cerritos College.
“Our players want to be the best on the court every game and they’ve been just that throughout the playoffs,” said ELAC Coach John Mosley, a former Husky player whose team has won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11. “We have a lot left to do this weekend.”
The winner will advance to Sunday afternoon’s championship game to play either Saddleback College (31-2), the top seed from the South, or North No. 2 Cañada College (24-6), who play in the second semifinal at 7 p.m.
The Huskies have traversed a long and rugged road to the final four. They were seeded 13th in the 20-team South playoff brackets and opened the postseason with a play-in victory against Victor Valley College (96-91) at home.
ELAC then went on the road to defeat No. 4 Antelope Valley College (111-106), No. 5 Southwestern College (79-65) and No. 8 Long Beach City College (92-73) to arrive in the CCCAA Championship Tournament.
In fact, the Huskies were the lowest remaining seed in the state when they took the court in Long Beach March 7.
Down by one eight minutes into the second half, ELAC broke open a tight game with the Vikings by going on a 15-2 scoring run that was ignited by Marquis Salmon’s three-pointer off a pass from Miles Ford.
A jump shot by Je’Ron Primus and a three-point play by Richard Bivens gave the Huskies a 67-60 lead. Marcus Romain converted two free throws and hit a jumper, and free throws by Salmon and Bivens increased the margin to 74-62. Long Beach (23-7) never got any closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
With the victory, the Huskies avenged a 74-71 loss to Long Beach, a South Coast Conference South Division rival, in a conference cross-over game.
“We’ve been very resilient and very relentless,” Mosley said. “We’re playing very good basketball right now.”
Primus, a sophomore guard from Westchester High School, and Romain, who is from New York and attended Progressive Christian Academy in Maryland, scored 20 points each to lead the Huskies. Primus was a perfect 10 for 10 at the free throw line and Romain recorded four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Salmon, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward from Village Christian High, added 19 points and had six rebounds. Sophomore guard Te’Shon Burton, a product of Leuzinger High, and Richard Bivens, a freshman forward from Bakersfield’s Ridgeview High, came off the bench to contribute eight points each.
Sophomore forward Primitivo Gomez (Arroyo High) and Ford (Alhambra High), a freshman guard, added seven points each.
ELAC’s success on the road should come as no surprise since the Huskies have played only seven of their 30 games at home.
The Huskies are 62-27 during Mosley’s three seasons at ELAC. They’ve reached the playoffs each season and won the South Coast Conference North championship in 2014, the college’s first conference title in 42 years.
Merritt is the second place team from the Bay Valley Conference. The Thunderbirds defeated Lassen College (70-64), City College of San Francisco (110-75) and Foothill College (62-50) in the North Division playoffs to reach the CCCAA Championship Tournament.
Cerritos College is located at 11110 Alondra Blvd., Norwalk.