The College of the Canyons men's basketball team emerged from its annual two-day Cougar Holiday Classic tournament as champions for the first time since 1997 after defeating runner up Barstow College 86-76 in a come-from-behind win on Thursday in the Cougar Cage.
Canyons (7-10) has now posted back-to-back victories for the first time this season. The most recent victory came a night after the Cougars emerged with a 110-106 double overtime victory vs. Orange Coast College on day one of the tourney.
Barstow and OCC were joined by Los Angeles Trade Tech College in rounding out the tournament field. Earlier on Thursday, OCC defeated LATTC 80-66 in the consolation game.
Prior to this season's championship run, Canyons had finished runner up at the Cougar Holiday Classic in four of the last five years.
Since the tournament's inception in 1989, COC has won the event three times (1991, 1997, 2016), and finished runner up on 11 occasions (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015). The event was not held in 2007.
In the game vs. Barstow, Canyons had six players score in double digits while shooting a combined 46 percent from the floor.
COC committed just nine turnovers in the game, compared to 15 for the Vikings, which was key in the Cougars' ability to overcome an 11-point first half deficit.
Canyons got off to a bit of a slow start and trailed 22-11 with 12:40 to play in the first half.
Less than a minute later sophomore forward Chris Collins went to work in the post and connected on a three-point play that sparked a 10-3 run by the Cougars.
COC later closed out the first off on another 14-4 run to take a 48-45 lead into halftime.
Collins finished the game with 18 points off the bench on a 7-of-8 shooting night to lead all Cougars.
Sophomore forward Garrett Mike had another great all-around performance for Canyons, finishing the night with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals. His 10 points in the second half led all scorers and helped the Cougars maintain the momentum established prior to halftime.
However, it was freshman guard Jacob Lilley who had perhaps the greatest impact throughout the two-day tournament.
Against the Vikings, Lilley scored 11 points while pulling down eight rebounds, snagging two steals and dishing out seven assists. He also committed just one turnover in 33 minutes of play while brilliantly orchestrating the Cougars' offense.
Lilley finished the tournament averaging 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, seven assists and two steals over the two games — while committing just three turnovers in 82 minutes of play. As a result, he was named the Most Valuable Player of the 27th Annual Cougar Holiday Classic.
Mike was also named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 20 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals per game.
Lilley and Mike were joined by Jordan Rogers (Barstow), Josh Mendoza (Orange Coast) and Michael Murphy (LATTC) with All-Tournament selections.
Canyons will next take the court vs. Ventura College (9-7) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, at the Cougar Cage.
—Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information