The Cuesta College men’s basketball team continued its strong start to the season, edging Victor Valley 66-65 on Saturday in the Neil Edward Classic at Citrus College.
With the score tied at 65, the Cougars called a play for Karem Ozel, who drove to the basket and was fouled, coach Rusty Blair said. Ozel hit one of two free throws with two seconds remaining, and Cuesta held Victor Valley (2-5) to a halfcourt desperation heave at the buzzer.
Rafail Eleftheriou led Cuesta with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Egeniy Moiseev added 12 points and six rebounds, and Roberto Montovani had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Cuesta had a 13-point advantage in the first half, but ran into foul trouble. Victor Valley made a run with the Cougars’ second unit on the floor, Blair said, and Cuesta led by just one at halftime.
The second half was a “repeat performance,” Blair said, as Cuesta took another big lead but with Mantovani and Eleftheriou on the bench with foul trouble, Victor Valley rallied again. Mantovani and Eleftheriou finished with four fouls each.
The Cougars (6-2) advance to play the winner of the East Los Angeles-Moorpark game in the final Sunday. East Los Angeles is the sixth-ranked team in the state.
“We’re getting used to this, we’re playing a tough schedule and hopefully it will start to pay off,” Blair said.