MONTEREY PARK, CA — East Los Angeles College defeated South Coast Conference North Division rival Pasadena City College, 58-45, in a CCCAA Women’s Basketball Southern Regional semifinal game.
Entering the game, ELAC (22-9) and Pasadena (18-14) have played to five wins each since the 2011-2012 season that includes an ELAC 51-47 win this year on Jan. 27 and a Pasadena 77-53 win on Feb. 12.
In the Round 3 playoff game, in one their most important meetings, ELAC won when it counted most.
“They just beat us in our place,” said ELAC freshman Kamara Smith (Carson High School). “We (adjusted), attacked more and played better defense to get back the win.”
In addition, key in the win was the Huskies holding Pasadena’s stop scorer, sophomore point guard Judith Espinoza (Eagle Rock HS), to her lowest point total this year.
Espinoza scored 34 points against ELAC this season and 35 last week in a 72-65 Pasadena upset win against No. 3-seed Ventura College (26-5).
“On defense, we did a good job (covering) Espinoza and held her to three points. On offense, we played team ball for the big win,” said ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner.
ELAC quickly fell behind 4-0. With 3:04 remaining in the first quarter, ELAC was down 14-6 when Lancer freshman forward Ella Stepanian connected on a 3-point play to quiet the home crowd.
The Huskies went on an 8-0 run for the remainder of the quarter. ELAC freshman guard Breanne Cheatum (Canyon Springs HS) connected two free throws with two seconds left in the quarter, and the ELAC fans controlled the noise.
ELAC added 10 consecutive points to the run in the second quarter. The 18-0 Husky run included three consecutive baskets from freshman center Anastasia Tsybaeva (Burbank HS).
Smith, who had three offensive rebounds, popped in a jump shot and the Huskies led 24-14 with 5:35 left in the half. Stepanian broke the ELAC run with a layup then missed a free throw that followed.
ELAC freshman guard Alissa Gomez (Roosevelt HS) grabbed that rebound, ran across the court and scored on a layup with 4:05 remaining in the half, to the loud approval of the ELAC fans.
Stepanian scored a hook shot at the buzzer to end the first half with a 10-5 Pasadena run and a 31-25 Husky lead.
ELAC opened the second half with an 11- 0 run, which included a layup from sophomore forward Jasmine Gates (Gahr HS) assisted by Tsybaeva, a 3-point basket from Gomez and a Tsybaeva crowd pleasing blocked shot.
Stepanian scored the Lancers first second-half points on two free throws with 4:45 left in the third quarter. Down 44-27 at that point, Pasadena got no closer than 10 points for the remainder of the game.
Stepanian scored a game-high 19 points for Pasadena and was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line.
Gomez scored a team-high 13 points for the Huskies.
Scoring 10 points each for ELAC were sophomore guard Yasmine Tweedy (Chesterfield, Virginia Manchester HS) and Tsybaeva who added 11 rebounds for her second consecutive double double.
Coach Turner emptied his bench. “Everyone gets playing time and is expected to (contribute) when needed,” said Turner.
Even though Pasadena ended its playoff run, kudos to the three SCC North Division teams in the playoffs with two such teams playing in the Elite 8.
No. 6-seed ELAC will travel to No. 2-seed Mt. San Jacinto College (30-1) in a SoCal Regional Final game on Saturday. March 5 at 5 p.m.
“We will be ready. What more motivation is needed than the winner advancing to the state championships?” said Turner.
ELAC seeks its second-consecutive trip to the CCCAA State Championships, this year at Las Positas College in Livermore. From March 11-13.
story submitted by Tadzio Garcia