SAN BERNARDINO - The San Bernardino Valley College men's basketball team welcomed a chance to get even with Citrus College.
When the two teams played in December, SBVC lost by 20, not surprising because the team was in turmoil with its coach fired right before the team left for the game.
The two squared off again Saturday, this time in the first round of the Southern California playoffs and it was SBVC surging past the visiting Owls 69-62 at Snyder Gymnasium. It was the ninth straight win and 15th in the last 16 games for the Foothill Conference champion Wolverines.
The No. 3 seeded Wolverines (21-13), who are trying for their third straight trip to the state tournament, will play host to No. 6 Saddleback (23-8) on Saturday.
"We wanted to play them again," freshman forward Johnny Barnes said. "You always want a chance to beat a team that beat you especially because all the things that happened that day. They came out and played hard. They're a good team."
No. 14 Citrus (21-13) led 24-21 after a sluggish first half, with two factors figuring in - playoff jitters as well as seven stops of play due to shot clock trouble.
The score was even at 21 until Phil Friesen completed a 3-point play to round out the scoring.
Despite trailing, interim SBVC coach Gerry Wright was pleased. His team shot only 40 percent but the Owls did slightly worse at 32.3.
"We didn't knock down some of our chances on offense but we played great defense," he said. "There were some first- half jitters with it being the playoffs. I don't think it was because we were playing Citrus. It would have been that way no matter who we were playing."
Both teams got into a flow in the second half. The biggest lead for Citrus was six points at 35-29 but its last lead was at 40-39 on a free throw by Friesen.
SBVC was up 53-50 with 5:43 left, but then went on a 10-4 run punctuated by a fast-break layup and free throw by Lance Hurdle that gave the Wolverines their biggest lead of the game at 64-54 with 2:36 to play.
The Owls were within three again at 63-60 with 23.9 seconds remaining, but SBVC put the game away at the free-throw line where Barnes went 6-for-6 the rest of the way.
"They mixed up their defenses well and we didn't adjust," Citrus coach Rick Croy said. "We didn't do as good a job of attacking as we normally do."
Hurdle and Barnes led SBVC with 12 points each, with Barnes going a stellar 7-for-11 from the field and 7-for-9 from the stripe. He also contributed a game-high 12 rebounds, helping the Wolverines to a 41-27 edge in that department.
Freshman guard Darrian McKinstry contributed nine points, six assists and two steals despite being slowed by a sore lower back stemming from a hard fall two weeks ago.
Citrus, which earned a spot opposite SBVC with a play-in win over Cuesta on Wednesday, got 18 from Friesen, 16 points and six rebounds from Deanta Black and 13 points from Kevin McCaughey.