Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Playoff Preview: Hornets prepare to battle with the high flying Eagles

Fullerton College faces their biggest challenge of the season as they are set to face Mt. San Jacinto in the CCCAA State Playoffs round of 16.
Cesar Garcia
OEC MVP Christian Watson leads the Hornets into the third round of the CCCAA playoffs against Mt. San Jacinto, looking to advance to the state championships.

There’s an old saying in basketball that says “defense wins championships” and in some cases that saying holds true. For Fullerton, they will need their defense to step up in a huge way on Saturday, March 9 at the Hornets Nest as they go up against Mt. San Jacinto Eagles.

The Eagles come into this game as the 9th seed and having already won two games so far in the playoffs, upsetting 8th seed Moorpark in the second round of the CCCAA playoffs.

Fullerton sophomore guard Jaden Byers looks to create space by driving into Irvine freshman guard Ammon Allan on Feb. 13, 2024. (Ciara Gonzalez )

The Hornets come into the matchup boasting the fourth ranked defense in the state of California. They will have to prove that ranking true as Mt. San Jacinto averages 94.2 points per game, which ranks second in the state of California.

The Eagles are led by four sophomores who average double digit points.

Sophomore Dasean Stevens leads the team with 21.8 points, followed by sophomore Isaiah Skinner averaging 18.7 points, sophomore BJ Brown averaging 16.4 points, and lastly sophomore Isiah Shirley averaging 15.3 points.

“Mt. San Jacinto is a tough team that has multiple guys scoring in double figures. It’s not about stopping one guy over there, it’s about stopping them as a unit,” said assistant coach Marshall Johnson. “They are currently the second highest scoring team in the state. It’s going to be a challenge, but we will be prepared.”

As a team, the Eagles (27-3, 13-3) shoot 47.7% from the field, 36.8% from three point land and average 40.4 rebounds a game. The Eagles are balanced in all aspects of offense, the finesse of creating and making shots to go along with the physicality of crashing the glass to create more opportunities for their potent scoring attack.

Since the Eagles have such a high powered offense, statistics show they do lack on the defensive side of the floor, having the 78th ranked defense in all of California allowing an even 80 points a game.

Fullerton comes into the matchup scoring 79.3 points a game, which creates a large margin between the two teams’ scoring outputs. For the Hornets, their game has been the defensive end all year long, as they have held opponents to just 62 points a game which ranks them 4th in the state.

Fullerton sophomore Jeremiah Davis sizes up Irvine freshman forward Ethan Tauber before making his next move on Feb. 13, 2024. (Ciara Gonzalez )

Although the Hornets only have two players averaging double digits in sophomore forward Jeremiah Davis at 13.3 points and freshman guard Christian Watson at 11.8 points, the team is still well balanced in scoring, with multiple guys nearing double digit totals.

The team will need both men to come up huge on Saturday, as Davis and Watson did not play up to their standards, especially shooting wise in their second round win against Cerritos College.

Davis shot just 4-11 from the field and 5-11 from the charity stripe, while Watson shot 3-11 from the field and went 0-3 on his free throw attempts.

What kind of message can a coach give to his top players to allow them to keep confidence high for an intense matchup like this?

“Continue to trust the process and trust the work that has been put in all year. Mistakes are going to happen, you have to keep moving forward and focus on the next play,” said Johnson. “Coach Webster said it best today, ‘what’s done is done, all we can do is focus on what’s in front of us.’”

The Hornets (25-4, 15-1) will look to lean on the inside-out ability of freshman big man JQ Strong, the swiss army knife off the bench that is sophomore Alex Archer and crafty lefty sophomore guard Jaden Byers who can eat up offensively like a microwave.

Archer had a monster game against Cerritos College, producing a season high in minutes played and points scored. His ability to play well as a small ball post player or pop back out on the wing is especially crucial as the Hornets advance in the playoffs, as each team they face presents entirely different matchups from the game before.

Hornets sophomore guard Alex Archer attempts to score while dodging Hawks’ freshman guard Tony Colley on Feb. 7, 2024. (Ciara Gonzalez)

An intriguing stat for this game is that no opponent of the Eagles has been able to hold the team under 80 points all season long. The Hornets will have the opportunity to be the first team to accomplish that feat, although it is not the main goal.

The Hornets must play with the mentality that “there is no tomorrow”, because there is not. One loss, the season ends. A team’s chemistry is always put to the test when the stakes are at their highest.

“It’s important for us to play Fullerton basketball. There’s no magic potion to this game. It’s about us staying together and playing as a team like we’ve done all year,” said Johnson.

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About the Contributors
Quinn Cisneros, Sports Editor
Quinn Cisneros is a third semester Sports Desk Editor for The Hornet Newspaper.  He is a six-time award winning journalist, including a first place CMA Pinnacle award for Sports Multimedia Story and second place for Sports Investigative Story. His other awards are a Meritorious Award for Enterprise Story/Series for his involvement in a Title IX investigation and honorable mention for Best Game Story from JACC. As a contributor to Around the Hornet in Fall 2023, he received another honorable mention for Audio Podcast and in Spring 2024 as an editor of Around the Hornet, he received third place for Audio Podcast from JACC. His interest in journalism came from his passion of sports. He enjoys watching, playing, and writing about sports. Quinn's end goal in journalism is to become a sports analyst. When not writing he enjoys spending time with his dog.
Cesar Garcia, Staff Photographer
Cesar Garcia, a mechanical design engineer and a photographer for The Hornet newspaper. He skillfully navigates the dual worlds of precision and creativity. In his engineering career, he excels in designing innovative solutions. As one of the newspaper's dedicated photographers, Cesar captures life's stories with a keen eye for detail and compelling narratives. Beyond his professional pursuits, he finds solace and joy amidst the electrifying atmosphere of live concerts, where he marvels at the engineering precision of music. Cesar's life forms a harmonious tapestry, blending technical prowess, artistic expression, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the exhilaration of live performances into a captivating and multifaceted narrative.

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