Irvine Valley's men's basketball team stayed with Saddleback for most of the Orange Empire Conference matchup between the two squads on Tuesday night.
But the Lasers could never take the lead in the second half in what turned out to be a 61-51 loss to the Gauchos in an Orange Empire Conference game at IVC.
Saddleback helped its run at a postseason spot, improving its record to 14-13 overall and 6-5 in conference. IVC lost its second straight game and fell to 14-14 overall and 3-8 in conference.
The Lasers went on a 6-0 run and took a 13-11 lead on a jumper by freshman guard Daniel Chatman midway through the first half.
Later, a four-point play by freshman guard Isaiah Mahmud tied the score at 24.
That is the way it went into halftime.
But Saddleback took control to start the second half. A 6-0 run, capped by two free throws by Shawn Stith gave the Gauchos a 30-24 lead. And Saddleback never trailed again.
IVC got within four points on several occasions, but Saddleback stretched its lead to double digits at 47-35 on a three-point play by JJ Overton with 7:44 left in the game.
Irvine Valley battled back late. A three-pointer by sophomore guard Daniel Hernandez made it a 53-51 game with 3:02 left.
But Irvine Valley missed its next two shots and then committed two turnovers.
Saddleback made four straight free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
The Gauchos were paced by Stith, who had a big game. He finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Isaiah Brooks added 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, Overton had 13 points and Antony Naimie contributed six rebounds and seven assists for Saddleback.
The Gauchos shot 53.7 percent (22 of 41) from the field as a team in the contest.
Irvine Valley got 10 points from sophomore forward Zane Paddon, nine points from Chatman and Mahmud and eight points from Hernandez in the defeat.
The Lasers wrap up the regular season on Thursday at home against Santiago Canyon at 6 p.m.