GLENDALE — Jalen Etienne found himself in a familiar situation, one he’s had plenty of experience with this season.
With his Glendale Community College men’s basketball team tied with L.A. Harbor College on Saturday night in a Southern California Regional second-round game, the freshman was sent to the free-throw line with the contest up for grabs.
PHOTOS: Etienne's free throws carry GCC to second-round victory
Fouled and sent to the charity stripe with 2.8 seconds left, Etienne calmly stepped up and sank his two shots. His free throws proved to be the difference, as they lifted the host Vaqueros to a 67-65 victory over the Seahawks.
““He’s been there before and he knows what to do,” Glendale college Coach Brian Beauchemin said about Etienne. “What he did there for us tonight was big.”
The No. 7-seeded Vaqueros (22-5), who were making their first postseason appearance since 2011, were able to post their first playoff win in six years. The win also marked the 592nd career victory for Beauchemin (third in the state all time), who has been at the Glendale college helm for 35 years.
The Vaqueros now move on to the next round and will play the winner of Saturday’s contest between No. 2 San Bernardino (25-4) and No. 18 Irvine Valley (25-7) on Wednesday at a site to be determined.
But Glendale college almost didn’t punch its ticket to advance in the playoffs after letting the No. 10 Seahawks (21-10) back into the game late in the second half.
“We kind of hurt ourselves late in the game and that let them come back,” Beauchemin said. “Their pressure really got to us and I didn’t think we handled it very well.
“But give [Harbor] credit, they’ve won eight games coming in and 13 out of 15 and they are a very good team. That’s not chopped liver that we just beat.”
The Vaqueros looked to have the game under control at 65-60 with 39.8 seconds remaining after Etienne (14 points) converted two free throws. However, the Seahawks came roaring back with five straight points to knot the score at 65, the last two coming on a layup by Elliot Morris (16 points) with 24 seconds remaining.
On the next possession, the Vaqueros got the ball into Etienne’s hands. He dribbled to the top of the key, stutter-stepped and drove hard to the basket. He was fouled on the play by Anthony Foster, putting the freshman at the line.
“When I had the ball, my instinct was just hold the ball, let some time run off the clock and just go to the basket and try and score,” Etienne said. “I just tried to lead my team to victory like I’ve been doing this whole year.”
Glendale college received a solid effort from sophomore Emmett Duvall, who had a game-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks. Teammate Gor Plavchyan, a sophomore, chipped in 14 points.
The Vaqueros had problems getting the ball inside to their big men in the first half. Still, Glendale college was able to enjoy a seven-point lead twice at 9-2 and 16-6. But they were never able to build on either advantage.
The Seahawks were able to stick around in the first half and trailed by just five, 27-22, at halftime.
Harbor came out in the second half and was able to surge in front, 36-32 with 13:06 left for its biggest lead of the contest. However, the Vaqueros embarked on an 8-0 run and took back the lead, 40-36, with 11:49 left.
“At times we looked rattled tonight, but I just think that was a lack of execution,” Beauchemin said. “And then after tomorrow there’s only going to be eight teams left and we’re in the third round already. Things are only going to get tougher for us.”