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Vaqueros Return Home for 35th SBCC Classic

City College men's team opens basketball tournament play against Grossmont.

After nearly a month on the road, Santa Barbara City College can forget about buses and hotels this weekend and concentrate on basketball. The Vaquero men will make their home debut at 7 p.m. Thursday against Grossmont in the opening round of the 35th annual SBCC Classic.

Victor Valley (5-4) and Canada (2-8) will open the three-day tournament at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Sports Pavilion. Other first-round matchups include Hancock (3-6) vs. L.A. Valley (7-3) at 5 p.m., and Oxnard (3-8) vs. Cypress (4-6) at 9 p.m. The championship is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday.

With a lineup dominated by freshmen, Santa Barbara has compiled a 3-4 record in tournaments at Glendale, Oxnard and Monterey Peninsula. SBCC guard Mark Keeten poured in 29 points in his second collegiate game and ranks third in WSC scoring at 21.9.

"We’ve been playing hard, we just need to play smarter," said Keeten, a 6-foot freshman from Corona who’s shooting nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line and has a team-high 20 3-pointers. "Overall, we’re getting better and starting to play together."

Keeten strained his achilles at last weekend’s Monterey Tournament and that affected his play in the last two games, according to SBCC coach Morris Hodges. The Vaqueros lost to Compton, 76-53, and Sierra, 88-62.

Grossmont (6-4) downed Cypress, 78-72, on Sunday to take third at its tournament in El Cajon. Freshman guard Aaron Tinsley averaged 22 points in three games for the Griffins.

Doug Weber, who started his coaching career as an assistant at San Marcos High during his senior year at UCSB, is in his ninth season as Grossmont’s coach.

SBCC reached last year’s final and gave a strong performance before falling to Mount San Antonio, 74-70. Two months later, the Mounties forfeited the title due to academic violations, giving the Vaqueros their eighth Classic crown and second in the last three years.

Defense has been a hallmark of Hodges’ teams, but that hasn’t been the case this year as the Vaqueros have been outscored 77.4 to 66.3.

"We’ve been playing hard but we haven’t been playing as smart and efficiently as we need to," Hodges noted. "Part of that is due to our inexperience at this level. I’m optimistic that we’re going to start playing smarter and things are going to pick up. We’re going to be more consistent."

Kola Togunde, a 5-11 point guard from North Garland, Texas, is SBCC’s second-leading scorer at 13.2 points per game.

Hodges praised the inside play of 6-5 center Alberto Rangel and said Brandon Greene "has been a surprise with his intensity coming off the bench. He’s been very active."

Dave Barker, a 6-6 sophomore from Redondo Beach, and Bo Rodriguez, a 6-1 freshman from Dos Pueblos High, round out the starting lineup. If SBCC wins Thursday, it will face the Victor Valley-Canada winner at 7 p.m. Friday.

Dave Loveton is Santa Barbara City College‘s sports information specialist.

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