SAN MARCOS (11-25-2017) -- On a Saturday when defending state community college champion San Diego City College battled its way into the championship game of the Palomar Thanksgiving Tournament for the second straight year, the Comets' Jason Strong stole the show for local fans.
Strong, the Comets' 6-foot-4 shooting guard, drained 8 attempts from behind the 3-point arc on 12 attempts, 4 in each half, to lead Palomar past Orange Coast 85-58 and into Sunday's 1 p.m. consolation championship game against Los Angeles Harbor. Most of his 3's were from NBA range. He went 8-for-16 from the field, was 7-for-7 from the free throw oline and also had 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
Palomar shot 50.1 percent from the floor, 50 percent on 3-pointers and 78.8 percent from the foul line. Matt Meyers (9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 5-for-7 free throw shooting), Marc Pacia (9 points, 5-for-5 from the foul line), Corday Fairley (8 points), Mike Chapman *(78 pioints), Anthony Brewer (7 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Matt Beeler (6 points, 3 assists) also made significant contributions as the Comets advanced to 4-2 on the season.
Beeler and Chatman buried back-to-back 3-pointers to get Palomar untracked early and the Comets never took the pedal off the metal against an Orange Coast team that came within a point of stunning San Diego City in Friday's first round. Knights finally won that one 73-72.
Sunday's 5 p.m. championship game will send the state No. 1-ranked Knights (9-2), who handed Santiago Canyon its first loss 96-86 in Saturday's 7 p.m. feature game, against San Diego Miramar (6-1), an 80-74 winner over 2015 state champion Saddleback. In the third-place game, Santiago Canyon will square off against Saddleback at 3 p.m.
As outstanding a game as Strong played, Santiago Canyon's Rodney Henderson out of St. John Bosco High was the best player in The Dome for the second straight night. Henderson, who scored 31 points in Friday's 84-75 come-from-behind win over Palomar, came back with 36 points vs. San Diego City as the Hawks (8-1) and Knights traded the lead back and forth until City drew away in the final minutes. Henderson was 13-for-23 from the field against the Knights and 6-for-7 from behind the 3-point arc. He also had 12 rebounds.
Wonder Smith, who began his college basketball career as a redshirt freshman a UCLA two years ago, led San Diego City with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists.
San Diego City utilized the Palomar Thanksgiving Tournanent championship last season to jump start its drive to the CCCAA State Championship, the first ever won by a San Diego County team in basketball.