El Camino men’s basketball rallies against Santa Barbara in late-game comeback


El Camino sophomore Mo Cruz goes for a layup against a Santa Barbara Vaqueros player to help bring the Warriors back into the game at the El Camino Gym Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 1. El Camino won the game 64-58 at the end of regulation. (Jesse Chan | The Union)

“Defense! Defense!”

The El Camino College audience chanted, encouraging the players to get one more stop for an opportunity to win the game.

Tied with a minute and 29 seconds to go, some free throws and a score on a layup by freshman Billy Ray Barnes III put the Warriors ahead.

Dwayne Moore scored on free throws with 13 seconds left, putting the stamp on the victory over Santa Barbara.

The El Camino men’s basketball team opened up its first game of the season with a win against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros 64-58 at the El Camino Gym Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

After taking a four-point lead in the game’s first minutes, Warriors coach Robert Uphoff’s game plan of attacking the paint seemed to work in the beginning.

That is, until it did not.

Plagued by turnovers and foul calls, the Warriors’ troubles suddenly turned into a Vaqueros scoring run, leading to a 35-29 lead at the half.

Warriors player Gabe Hubbard shoots a free throw against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros at the El Camino Gymn Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
El Camino sophomore Gabe Hubbard shoots a free throw against the Santa Barbara Vaqueros at the El Camino Gymn Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Hubbard threw a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards in the game-winner. (Jesse Chan | The Union)

The first half was challenging for the Warriors, who sought to play dominant ball. Shots were not falling. Entering halftime, the Warriors shot 37% from the field in the first half and 30% from the three-point line.

“Starting off the game, our goal was to get the ball inside. We felt like we had a distinct size advantage. But we didn’t do a good job of that,” Uphoff said.

Coming out of the half, the Vaqueros continued to build on their momentum, taking a double-digit lead until a last-minute push by the Warriors, which brought them head to head.

El Camino tightened up their defense and converted on layups they had missed in the first half as they trailed by as much as 11 points early in the second half.

Vaqueros coach Devin Engebretsen credited El Camino for plays that ended up winning the game but said he would have liked to see his team convert on opportunities they missed the game moving forward.

“You’ve got to give El Camino credit. They did what they had to do. Made a lot of plays, they made a couple of nice spin move layups, and we didn’t defend it,” Engebretsen said.

Billy Ray Barnes III going for layup against Aidan Mandel
Billy Ray Barnes III going for a layup against Santa Barbara Vaquero Aidan Mandel at Tuesday’s game in the El Camino Gym Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Barnes III ended the game with eight points and hit the pivotal go-ahead bucket. (Jesse Chan | The Union)

Down by two points, with 59 seconds to go in the game, freshman Billy Barnes III took it upon himself to use said spin layup to give El Camino the lead.

The coolest, calm and most collected member of the Warriors was the one who gave the Warriors the lead and the momentum to win the game.

El Camino guard Mo Cruz praised Barnes III for remaining calm throughout the game. Barnes III finished the game with eight points, five assists, and two rebounds to begin the season.

“Just seeing how composed [Barnes III] was when we were down, helped me stay mentally focused and not get down on myself,” Cruz said.

The El Camino Warriors are set to play at Imperial Valley on Nov. 5, while the Santa Barbara Vaqueros look to regroup against Bakersfield on the same day.

“I’m really proud of the guys. They found a way to come back to finish the game off strong, so I’m excited about the potential there, but we obviously have a lot to improve on, but that’s a good thing,” Uphoff said.