Sophomores power Bear Cubs to win over American River

Courtesy of SRJC

Ian MacGregor, Sports Editor

SRJC sophomore guard Damian Wallace’s blazing speed proved too much for American River College Tuesday night. Time and time again, Wallace beat the entire team down the floor, finishing with tough layups en route to 25 points and a final score of 91-77. 

The Bear Cubs hit 13 threes in the win; sophomore guard Atmar Mundu paced his teammates with five. Mundu contributed 18 points to go with five rebounds and six assists. 

SRJC jumped out to an early double-digit lead thanks to a scorching start from deep, but a cold stretch coupled with a 14-2 American River run forced Bear Cubs Coach Craig McMillan to burn a timeout down 25-24 with six minutes left in the first half. 

“The game plan was to get the ball inside and kick it out to open shooters, but we got a little trigger happy from deep,” McMillan said. “The timeout helped a bit, Gianni (Brown) and Ed (Turner) came out hot.” 

Hot was an understatement. Sophomore forward Brown went on a personal 7-0 run out of the timeout while freshman forward Ed “Squid” Turner wreaked havoc on American River’s interior defense with strong post play and precision passes to wide open shooters. 

Mundu converted a putback layup at the first-half buzzer to put SRJC up 45-33. 

“We wanted to spread the floor and let them make mistakes on defense,” Mundu said. “At that point it’s a lot easier to attack the basket.”

American River made a strong push in the second half, at one point closing the gap to just four points. Brown converted a four-point-play midway through the half, and SRJC built momentum off his shot. 

The next scare came late in the half, as Turner was called for two shooting fouls in less than a minute in a close game. The fouls drew glares of disbelief from Turner and McMillan and nervous groans from the stands at Haehl Pavilion.

“Man, I felt like I went straight up on both of those,” Turner said. “It almost felt like they were trying to take me out of the game, but we locked in and got the win, and that’s what matters.”

McMillan praised second-year forward Landon Courtman for his contribution after Turner got into foul trouble. 

“The sophomores were huge for us today. Atmar, Gianni and Damian were huge, and Landon really stepped up after the fouls on Squid,” McMillan said.

Wallace also came alive at opportune moments to score multiple times on the fast break to power SRJC to the win, including an and-one to seal the deal. 

The Bear Cubs play at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Cosumnes River College to close out the regular season, with a common goal on the horizon. Ed Turner summed it up perfectly. 

“We just need to keep grinding, keep playing hard and hopefully make a run for this championship.”