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Kleiner, McMurtry spark second-half rally for 87-83 triumph

Freshman Kile Kleiner scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the second half. He leads the Vaqueros with a 16.4 average. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Freshman Kile Kleiner scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the second half. He leads the Vaqueros with a 16.4 average. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

SBCC overcame a sluggish first half and a 14-point deficit to beat the SBCC Alumni 87-83 in its home opener on Thursday in the opening round of the 45th annual SBCC Classic men's basketball tournament.

Kile Kleiner scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the final 20 minutes. The Vaqueros (2-6) trailed 44-35 at intermission, then shot 44.4% while winning the second half 52-39.

Zeke McMurtry tallied 16 of his season-best 26 points in the second half and grabbed 16 rebounds for the game, helping the Vaqueros to a 50-44 advantage on the boards. McMurtry, who's second in the state in rebounds at 12.9 a game, posted his fifth double-double in eight games.

Robert Hutchins, who played for the Vaqueros in 2015-16 and 2016-17, poured in 19 first-half points on the way to a game-high 32 points for the Alumni. Cody Ferris added 20 points while Adam Sjovold contributed 12 points and eight rebounds.

The Alumni used a 10-3 run to stretch the lead to 30-19 with 7:20 to go in the first half. They opened the second half on a 10-5 burst, capped by a 3-pointer from Trace Agin, to take their largest lead of 14 points (54-40) with 16:05 remaining.

"We didn't come in the way we wanted to, we weren't taking it like a real match-up and that hurt us a lot," said Kleiner, who made 9-14 from the floor and 3-7 on 3's in the second half. "The coaches motivated us to step up our game at halftime. We started to make things happen on the press with a lot of steals and easy layups."

The Vaqueros fell behind by nine, 62-53, on a follow shot by Ferris, then went on a 15-5 run with Kleiner netting 11 points. His layup and free throw put the Vaqueros ahead to stay 68-67 with 7:08 to play.

Two layups and a 14-foot jumper by McMurtry gave SBCC its biggest lead at 79-71 with 3:12 remaining. The Alumni stormed back to tie it at 79 on a steal and layup by Hutchins. McMurtry hit a layup, the Alumni got a free throw from Agin and Kleiner sank another layup for a 83-80 advanatage with 32.2 seconds left.

Two Kleiner free throws made it 85-80, then Ferris made things interesting by throwing in a 32-footer to cut the deficit to two, 85-83, with 9.8 seconds left. Kleiner sealed the win with two free throws.

Joseph Holden added 11 points for the Vaqueros, who won despite being outshot 46.4% to 37.8%.

"The Alumni was a good group of players," said coach Morris Hodges. "They're older and wiser. That was a terrible first half by us. Some of our guys took them lightly and thought we could just run around and get a win. We were completely unmotivated in the first half.

"We started to turn it up in the second half. The press forced some turnovers and we got a few easy baskets. The reality set in that these guys are pretty good and they'll beat us if we don't start playing hard."

Hodges praised the effort of Jashon Lee (4 assists, 3 rebounds) who "gave us some defensive energy and set the tone in the second half" and Piers Donald, who had four points and seven rebounds.

Bakersfield got 30 points from Anieus Medrano and outlasted L.A. Valley 81-71 in overtime.

The Vaqueros will play Bakersfield in Friday's first semifinal at 6 p.m. Canyons and L.A. Trade Tech will tangle in the other semifinal at 8 p.m.

In other games, Zach Phipps tossed in 25 points to lead Canyons past Oxnard 88-84 and Mark Chin had 19 points and 11 boards as L.A. Trade Tech cruised past College of the Desert 93-71.