VENTURA (11-02-2017) (11-03-2017) (11-04-2017) -- After winning big over Los Angeles Valley to begin the men's basketball season in the first round of Ventura College's We Play Hard Tournament on Thursday night, then losing a heartbreaker in a semifinal game on Friday, Palomar defeated Antelope Valley 77-74 on Saturday in the tournament's third-place game.
Thursday: Palomar 95, Los Angeles Valley 78
Jackson Strong, who came to Palomar a year ago from Torrey Pines High School, unloaded on the Monarchs. The 6-foot-4 sophomore shooting guard scored 31 points, buried 10 of 15 shots from behind the 3-point arc, and pulled down 10 rebounds.
"Jackson Strong had a great performance," coach John O'Neill said. "He deserves everything he gets. He worked his rear off all summer and all fall."
Strong is No. 21 in the second row of the team picture.
The Comets, who had overpowered some of the state's best teams in pre-season showcase and scrimmage action, shot their way to a 54-35 halftime lead and continued on to the win.
Jamario Harris, a 6-foot-1 freshman guard out of Temecula's Great Oak High School, joined Strong in double figures with 13 points. Coday Fairley scored 9 points and LaVale Coleman-Bell tallied 8 points. Matt Beeler chipped in with 4 assists and 2 steals.
The Comets shot 52.5 percent from the field and were 19-for-37 on 3-pointers against the Monarchs, who are coached by former Palomar head coach Virgil Watson. O'Neill was Watson's associate head coach for the Comets.
Friday: Orange Coast 87, Palomar 85 (overtime)
Coleman-Bell had a big game for the Comets in defeat but the Pirates came back from an 85-81 deficit in the closing seconds. Coleman-Bell scored 25 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Strong (18 points, 9 rebounds), Matt Meyers (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Fairley (11 points, 3 steals) joined Coleman-Bell in double figures.
The teams were tied 76-76 at the end of regulation play as Orange Coast again came from behind as the clock ran down.
Eventual tournament champion Riverside City College downed Antelope Valley 72-67 in the other semifinal game.
Saturday Third-Place Game: Palomar 77, Antelope Valley 74
Coleman-Bell led the Comets with 20 points and also pulled down 6 rebounds. Strong finished with 66 points in three tournament games, scoring 17, going 9-for-10 from the free throw stripe and pulling down 6 rebounds. Myers had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Marc Pacia and Matt Beeler each dished off 5 assists vs. the Marauders.