Corsairs knock off #2 seed East LA 63-60 to advance to the Regional Finals

Santa Monica College Men's Basketball Coach Joshua Thomas leads his team to a second round upset win over #2 seed East LA College.
Santa Monica College Men's Basketball Coach Joshua Thomas leads his team to a second round upset win over #2 seed East LA College.

March 2, 2019

Monterey Park, Calif.

The Santa Monica College Corsairs (19-11) defeated a tough East LA (24-5) team 63-60 on the road, where East LA was undefeated all season. The Corsairs jumped out to a 5-0 lead to begin the game with an opening possession three-pointer from freshman point guard Teddy Parham and lay-up in transition by sophomore center Kyle Young. East LA, the #2 seed in the Southern California Regional playoff bracket, answered with a 12-1 run to take a 12-6 lead with 14:46 in the first half. East LA had the lead the majority of the first half until freshman shooting guard LeAndrew Knight scored on lay-up to give the Corsairs a 28-26 lead with 1:27 remaining. The lead did not last long for the Corsairs as the Huskies closed the half with a 6-0 run and led Santa Monica 32-28 at the half.

In the second half, Santa Monica's defense turned the tables as the Corsairs led the majority of the second half. Santa Monica held East LA to 33.3% shooting from the field in the second half.

"Our team really locked in defensively in the second half. At halftime, our coaching staff told our team that we have to defend a lot better," Coach Thomas said. "The guys were already playing hard on that end of the floor in the first half, but then they took it up a few notches in the second half."

East LA, the number two rebounding team in the state, were held to a season-low 31 rebounds. Conversely, the Corsairs pulled down 40 rebounds.

"We knew coming in that the Huskies are a great rebounding team. We really wanted to win the rebound game. It was a very physical game, and I am proud of the way our guys battled for rebounds," said Coach Thomas.

But the story came down to two reserve freshmen guards who had fantastic games and great second halves. Guards Chastin Mouton and Mekhi Kimble combined for 21 second-half points on 8-9 field goals.

Kimble hit a three-pointer to give the Corsairs a 41-39 lead with 14:03 on the clock. Then Mouton extended the lead with a euro-step lay-up in transition, a three-pointer, and pull-up jumper to extend the lead to 48-40 with 11:23 remaining.

"I was always tell my players that they have to be ready to perform in the moment of opportunity. Chastin has been in a great rhythm in the last 10 games. Mekhi has struggled a bit this season, but I always believed in him. Mekhi was patient and when his time came around again he played well," explained Coach Thomas.

Later into the game, the Huskies led 60-58 with 2:01 left, and then Kimble took and made the game winning-basket and key free throws.

With 1:34 left in the game, sophomore Marcus Harris missed a three-pointer, but Knight grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, and passed it out to sophomore Jordan Wilson on the wing, who swung it to Mouton at the top of the key, who then swung it to Kimble in the corner. Kimble, composed and hands ready, caught and knocked down a corner three-pointer with 1:27 on the clock to give the Corsairs a 61-60 edge.

After an East LA missed shot and a turnover by Santa Monica, the Huskies had a possession to take the lead again, but they missed a three-pointer with nine seconds on the clock, and Kimble corralled the defensive rebound and was fouled.

"Before Mekhi went to the line, I called him over and told him that I am proud of him and take your team home and knock down these free throws," Coach Thomas said.

Kimble calmly sank two free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining in the game.

The Huskies had one last possession to tie the game. The Huskies inbounded the ball from the back court, and Kimble got his hands on the pass near half court and almost stole it. The loose ball ended up in the hands of East LA and the ball was passed to an open player, but sophomore Marcus Harris ran from the elbow to contest the game-tying three-pointer. The three-pointer hit the back of the iron and Santa Monica secured the rebound as time expired.

"I am proud of all of our players tonight. But I have to say that Head Coach John Mosley of East LA runs a great program. Mosley does a great job with his players, and he has a great coaching staff. He is someone who I personally admire at this level and in this business. His players are well-coached and great on and off the court. His program is always highly ranked and our coaching staff highly respects his team and his staff," Coach Thomas explained.

Mouton led the Corsairs with 15 points on 6-8 shooting from the field and three assists. Kimble added 12 points on 4-4 shooting from the field and three rebounds. Young recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Corsairs will travel to face #8 seed Riverside City College (20-9) on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. for the Regional Final. The winner of this game will go to the state tournament at Ventura College, which features the final eight playoff teams.