Men’s Basketball victory over Cuesta College caps off a celebratory day

Sophomore+guard+Ben+Guard+attempts+to+break+down+his+defender+in+their+85-76+victory+over+Cuesta+College+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+25+at+Moorpark+College.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough
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Men’s Basketball victory over Cuesta College caps off a celebratory day

Sophomore guard Ben Guard attempts to break down his defender in their 85-76 victory over Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Sophomore guard Ben Guard attempts to break down his defender in their 85-76 victory over Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Sophomore guard Ben Guard attempts to break down his defender in their 85-76 victory over Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Sophomore guard Ben Guard attempts to break down his defender in their 85-76 victory over Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Chad O'Connor

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The Moorpark College Men’s Basketball team continued their winning ways Saturday afternoon with an 85-76 victory over the Cuesta College Cougars. The Raiders built upon their midweek momentum after they defeated Oxnard College 98-85 and improved to an overall record of 11-10 on the year with 3-2 in conference play.

The victory capped off a day of celebration for the college and its athletics programs, as they officially unveiled their $18 million gymnasium renovations. Part of the festivities were the 20-year reunion of Moorpark College’s two most successful Men’s Basketball teams in its history. The 2000 and 2001 Men’s Basketball teams were honored before tipoff for their contribution to Moorpark College and their enduring legacy. Their accolades include a combined 53 wins, two conference titles, and two state playoff semifinal appearances.

Once the game had began, Cuesta was intent on spoiling the party. A strong defensive effort saw the Raiders stifled offensively, as Cuesta held an initial lead 8-4 nearing the 15:00 minute mark of the first half. Sophomore forward Tim Andreolli responded accordingly and nailed back-to-back three-pointers to pull Moorpark back within a point as the score stood 11-10 in favor of Cuesta.

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Tim Andreolli, sophomore forward of the Moorpark Raiders, reaches for the rim in Moorpark's home game against Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

A rapid 8-0 run in response aided by back-to-back three-pointers of Cuesta’s own would force the Raiders hand as they desperately called timeout with 12:51 remaining in the first half.

“I think we just came in a little slow, we expected to beat them,” Andreolli said. “They showed us we can’t do that to them.”

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Sophomore starting point guard, Ben Grant, flies to the rim during Moorpark's home game against Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 26. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The answer came for the Raiders in the form of sophomore point guard Ben Grant, who almost single-handedly willed the Raiders back into contention, scoring eight out of the Raiders’ next 10 points. The resulting 10-1 run for Moorpark was fueled by a renewed defensive intensity as the Raiders were determined not to let this game slip away.

The two teams continued to trade blows over the next nine minutes as neither team was able to gain a hold on the game. An 8-2 Cuesta run saw their lead extend to 32-26, only to be answered by a 9-4 spurt by Moorpark as the game continued to intensify. An Andreolli three-pointer capped off the Raiders’ first half as Cuesta entered the break with a 42-38 lead.

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Sophomore forward Mason Johnson converts a layup during Moorpark's 85-76 home victory over Cuesta College on Saturday, Jan. 25. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

“What we discussed at halftime was passing up a good opportunity for a great one,” Head Coach Chris Morgan stated. “Moving the ball, making the extra pass, finding the open guy.”

Cuesta would open the half with two quick transition buckets to extend their lead to 47-40 before the combination of sophomore forward Mason Johnson and Andreolli ignited the Moorpark attack, hitting back-to-back three-pointers as Moorpark closed the gap to 47-46.

With 16:00 minutes remaining in the second half, the Raiders secured their first lead of the game, but the lead was not safe for long as the game underwent seven different lead changes in seven minutes.

A welcome addition to the Raiders attack in the second half was the elevated play of Johnson. After initially scoring six points in the first half, Johnson began to find his rhythm with 15 second-half points.

“In the first half, our defensive was sluggish so it’s hard to get going on offense,” Johnson expressed. “I was forcing a bit in the first half and I talked to coach at half, he told me, ‘Mase just focus on defense and the offense will take care of itself’.”

A Cuesta three-pointer with 9:13 remaining in the second half saw them regain a one-point advantage, but the heroic play of Andreolli was not to be denied as he drilled two three-pointers in short order to give Moorpark the 67-62 lead.

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Sophomore forward Tim Andreolli drives to the hoop in Moorpark's 85-76 victory over Cuesta College at Raider Pavillion on Saturday, Jan. 25. Andreolli had a game-high 31 points with seven three pointers. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

As play began to wind down and tensions began to rise, the Raiders found themselves in a 72-72 deadlock with a little over 5:30 minutes remaining. The Raiders as a collective unit rose to the occasion as contributions from four separate scorers contributed to a 13-5 run that iced the game and secured an 85-76 Moorpark victory.

Andreolli led the way for the Raiders as he scored 31 points on 11-18 shooting from the field, including seven three-pointers. Grant and Johnson bolstered the Raiders attack and chipped in 21 points each.

“These guys have been great all year on just focusing on the next game ahead of themselves,” Morgan said. “Every day is an opportunity to go 1-0.”

The Raiders will look to continue their momentum this Wednesday as they take on Santa Barbara City College at 7 p.m. in Santa Barbara.