The Bulldogs heated up offensively and tightened up defensively down the stretch as the Allan Hancock College men's basketball team defeated Palomar 66-62 to win the Holiday Classic championship on Friday evening in Joe White Memorial Gymnasium. The Bulldogs won their own tournament for the 15th time in the 52-year history of the Holiday Classic and for the first time since 2011. The Bulldogs improved to 8-9. Palomar dropped to 7-7. Their three-day run during the Holiday Classic included two overtime wins in the first two rounds.
Nolan Willett led the Bulldogs with 14 points and seven assists in the title game. The freshman was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, six of which came in the final few minutes to seal the win. Freshman forward Marc Fabricius added 13 points and seven rebounds. The forward made 5-of-6 from the field, including all three of his 3-point shots. Troy Bolden added nine points and four rebounds in the victory. Marcellus Garrick came off the bench to add eight points, including two big 3-point buckets in the second half. Erik Kinnebrew made 1-of-8 shots, but he contributed in every other facet of the game with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.
The Bulldogs and Comets ended the first half tied 30-30. Palomar took advantage off a cold-shooting Hancock team early in the second half to build a 43-38 lead with 12:28 to play. The Bulldogs regained control from there and went on a 16-4 run over the next seven minutes. Shemarr Parker, Garrick, Fabricius and Willett hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the court to turn a five-point deficit into a 50-47 Hancock lead with 6:39 to play. Baskets form Fabricius and Garrick in the following minute allowed Hancock to take a 54-47 lead. The Comets would pull to within two points, but Willett made all six of his free throws down the stretch, and Bolden hit one of two from the line to seal the victory.
Bolden was named to the All-Tournament Team, and Kinnebrew (pictured below) was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Bolden, a freshman, averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds during the three-day tournament. He recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday's overtime win against Cerro Coso. Kinnebrew recorded a double-double in Thursday's overtime win with 17 points and 12 rebounds. He averaged 10 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5 assists over the weekend.
Overall, Hancock shot 36 percent from the field, and 48 percent from 3-point range. Hancock made 11-of-23 from beyond-the-arc, and came up big at the foul line by sinking 13 of 16, or 81 percent. The Bulldogs continued to share the ball effectively and recorded assists on 17 of their 21 field goals.
Palomar shot 37 percent overall, and made seven of 36 from 3-point range. The Comets finished with 38 rebounds, including 12 offensive boards. The Comets stayed in the first half with second-chance baskets. Palomar had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half alone. The Hancock defense limited second-chance opportunities in the final 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs will return to action on January 6, against East Los Angeles at a three-day tournament hosted by Cuesta College.