By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
College of the Canyons poured in 61 second-half points to power past Orange Coast College 99-72 in day one action of the 30th Annual Cougar Holiday Classic.
Sophomore Zach Phipps finished the game with 31 points to lead all scorers and also made a mark om the defensive end with six rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He was 12-of-15 on the night including a trio of three-pointers.
Phipps' 17 points in the second half helped to pace a Cougars squad that came out of the halftime locker room with a renewed energy. Sophomore Jordan Nash paced the offensive with nine assists, including a couple of lob passes to the rim that led to a pair of crowd-pleasing dunks. Nash added 17 points and four rebounds to his night
Jah-Kez Moore netted 15 points, with 11 coming in the second half, to represent the third Cougar in double-figures. Christopher Bradford also made an impact with seven assists, 11 rebounds and nine points.
Virgil Mahoney led the reserves with eight points, including a pair of thundering dunks, to go with five boards.
Orange Coast (2-10) struggled to a 36.5 percent field goal percentage for the game but was able to contend with Canyons (6-4) throughout the first half, despite playing with just a seven-man rotation. It took a buzzer-beater by Nash at the end of the first half to break the tie and give COC a 38-35 advantage.
Canyons scored just two bench points across the first 20 minutes, with Phipps and Nash combining to keep COC slightly ahead. The Cougars shot under 40 percent in the first half but improved that mark to 62.5 percent in the final frame. The Cougars also controlled the boards, winning that battle by a 49-28 output.
COC has now won in three of its last four outings, with those victories coming by an average of 22 points.
Jonathan Ileleji led the Pirates with 19 points. Andres Ortega and Aundrel Pua both ended with 17 in the losing effort.
L.A. Trade Tech (8-6) and Ohlone College (2-10) also squared off in the opening round of play, with the Beavers earning a 103-81 victory over a Renegades squad representing the Northern California region.
LATT's victory sets up a championship game vs. host Canyons at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the MacArthur Center on The Master's University campus.
Saturday's contest will mark the second time in as many years that COC and LATT have played in the tourney's final game. In 2018, the Beavers posted an 86-68 win over the host Cougars to win the tourney title.
Ohlone will face Orange Coast in the third-place game at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
—Photo by Chad Peters/COC Athletics