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photo by Susan Okawa
photo by Susan Okawa

Lady Huskies basketball wins in state semis

LIVERMORE, CA — The East Los Angeles College women's basketball team won a 51-47 upset victory against the No. 1-seed City College of San Francisco, in the CCCAA State Championships semifinals.

ELAC will play in its first-ever state championship title game.

"Sunday will be historic for our program, so since we're in it we may as well try and win it," said ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner.

The Huskies, 24-9 overall, face South Coast Conference North Division rival Mt. San Antonio College (33-1) who defeated Fresno City College (29-4) 75-66 in the other semifinal game.

San Francisco (28-4) gained control of the ball after the opening tip off. After a missed Ram's shot and a Ram offensive rebound, ELAC freshman forward Tiffani Martinez (Montebello HS) stole the ball.

This led to an ELAC freshman guard Alissa Gomez (Roosevelt High School) jump shot and ELAC led, 2-0, 45 seconds into the game.

Freshman post player Anastasia Tsybaeva (Burbank HS) increased the Husky lead to 5-2 with a jump shot with 7:15 remaining in the first quarter assisted by sophomore guard Yasmine Tweedy (Chesterfield, Virginia Manchester HS).

San Francisco had an 11-8 lead with 3:11 left in the quarter. Eleven seconds later, ELAC freshman guard Brianne Cheatum made a jump shot, assisted by Gomez, which was the beginning of a 6-2 run for ELAC.

ELAC led 14-13 after the first quarter, which had three ties and five lead changes. First quarter stats included four steals from the Huskies and seven points scored from San Francisco sophomore center Danielle Palmer.

The second quarter began with three lead changes and two ties. The quarter ended with an 11-0 ELAC run that included a Cheatum 3-point swish at the buzzer.

ELAC outscored the Rams 15-5 in the second quarter and led at the half 29-18. ELAC was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the second quarter. Cheatum hit two and Gomez connected on the other. The Rams were 0-of-4 from three-point range in the quarter.

ELAC scored first in the second half for a 32-18 lead off a Gomez 3-point shot, assisted by Tweedy, with 9:15 left in the third quarter. Tsybaeva hit the first of two free throws with 6:22 left in the third quarter for a 34-22 Husky lead.

San Francisco then went on a 9-0 run that culminated with a freshman forward Nia Ilalio layup with 2:35 left in the third quarter. ELAC led 34-31. Tweedy broke the run 18 seconds later with a jump shot, assisted by Cheatum. ELAC lead 36-31.

San Francisco outscored ELAC 6-2 for the remainder of the quarter and ELAC led 38-37 going into the final period.

In the fourth quarter, the lead went back and forth. San Francisco led 43-41 with 5:53 left in the game. With its defense in high gear, ELAC patiently scored the next six-consecutive points.

One of the biggest shots of the game came during the run.

ELAC sophomore forward Jessica Sanchez (Roosevelt HS) made a layup off the glass in traffic to quiet the home crowd. ELAC led, 46-43 with 3:43 remaining in the game. Sanchez had previously missed all of her 14 attempted shots.

The Rams missed a jump shot with 3:27 left in the game; Sanchez used her quick speed to get the rebound.

After a Ram two-point basket, ELAC freshman Kamara Smith answered with another huge basket for the Huskies. Smith made a jump shot with 2:09 left in the game, which got loud reaction from both sides. ELAC led 49-45.

The Huskies fought on through the final second and in the process won the biggest game in the history of the ELAC women's basketball program.  San Francisco had its chances, but ELAC answered each time.

Freshman guards led the Huskies in scoring. Gomez scored a season-high 20 points and Cheatum came off the bench and scored 11 points.

Palmer scored 13 points for San Francisco and had a double double with 11 rebounds. Freshman teammate Gabrielle Vigil scored 11 points. Vigil is the fifth-best scorer in the state with 20.9 points-per-game average.

Sanchez had a game-high 16 rebounds with seven off the offensive glass.

ELAC had 10 steals in the game, three each from Gomez and Sanchez. San Francisco, which averaged 17.3 assists-per-game coming into the semifinal matchup, had six against ELAC.

Palmer had a game-high seven blocked shots for the Rams. Tsybaeva and Tweedy each had a blocked shot for ELAC. It was Tsybaeva's 55th blocked shot of the year, 13-best in the state.

Coming into the game, it was ELAC, the No. 6-seed from the South Region, vs. the No. 1-ranked team in the state, San Francisco.

"We knew the teams were very similar," said ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner. "When I saw them on film, I said 'boy, we play just alike.' We didn't press tonight because we didn't have to, so we were ready for their press. But we didn't execute as well as I would have liked."

ELAC snapped San Francisco's 17-game win streak with the upset win.

The Huskies, loser of three of their final four regular season games, put together a playoff run that included wins against Santa Ana College (101-94), Pasadena City College (58-45) and No. 2-seed Mt. San Jacinto College (76-65).

The state title game will be on Sunday, 1 p.m. at Las Positas College.

"I realized before the Pasadena game that people are living through us and that this run we are on is not for us as individuals but it is for our community. It is for anyone that has ever called themselves a Husky," said sophomore forward Jasmine Gates (Gahr HS), who had five rebounds.

"As far as making history that is just a blessing. We have a special group so it is only right that special things happened to us and will continue to happen to us," said Gates.


submitted by Tadzio Garcia