Leading 14-6 after the first seven minutes Wednesday, the No. 14-seeded Pasadena City College women's basketball team appeared focused in its quest to advance to the regional finals and beyond. But No. 6 East Los Angeles had revenge on its mind from a 24-point home loss to the Lancers on Feb. 12. The Huskies defense and rebounding took over while PCC's offense went cold as the Lancers season came to an end, 58-45, in Round 3 of the SoCal Regional Playoffs.
PCC's season ended at 18-14. ELAC advanced to the regional finals with a 22-9 mark. The Huskies finished 2-1 in three meetings with their South Coast Conference North Division rival. ELAC controlled the post, outrebounding PCC, 57-38, including 26-11 on the offensive boards.
The only Lancers player to reach double figures was freshman guard Ella Stepanian, who played valiantly while her teammates struggled to score. Stepanian finished with a game-high 19 points, including a sensational running, one-hand bank from 18 feet at the first-half buzzer. That basket left PCC behind 31-25.
PCC's early 8-point lead was erased when the Huskies went on an 18-0 run, taking a 24-14 lead on a Kamara Smith basket. The Lancers went more than seven minutes without a point before Lancers reserve center Kailyn Gideon hit a layup.
In the second half, the Huskies broke things open by scoring the first 11 points of the third quarter. By the time Alissa Gomez sank a 3-pointer from the corner, ELAC had built its lead to 20 at 47-27 with 2:47 left in the period. PCC got as close as 10 at 51-41, but the host team's defense was just too much for the Lancers.
PCC made just 15-for-56 from the field (26.8 percent). Lancers sophomore point guard Judith Espinoza was limited to just three points (with five assists) and frosh forward Ilianna Blanc scored just five points and had six rebounds. Gideon, a freshman, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots, scoring three points. Sophomore guard Kyrstin Nakamura tallied six points on two first-half 3-pointers. Defensively, reserve forward Patience Madayag made three steals.
ELAC reserve center Anastasia Tsybaeva grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 10 points. Gomez totaled 13 points and eight rebounds and Yasmine Tweedy had 10 points and all five of her rebounds were on the offensive boards.
"It seemed like the East LA rims kept shrinking for us," said PCC head coach Joe Peron. "We suffered a bit of a letdown after the Ventura win. Give East LA credit because they made adjusments and fought for rebounds better than us. I'm proud of our team to get this far. Our returning players next year will benefit from this postseason experience."
Espinoza finishes her PCC career seventh on the Lancers All-Time Scoring List with 910 points. Her 346 assists is No. 2 in that category behind Kinyada Johnson (2007-09, 443). She closed her sophomore year as PCC's leading scorer at 15.8 points a game and added team-leading averages in assists (4.6) and steals (2.7).
Stepanian followed Espinoza in the scoring column at 11 points per game and her 75.3 free throw percentage led the squad. Nakamura closed her PCC career with 134 total 3-point baskets. Tranfer guard Emiko Powell, transfer guard Belinda Dornidon, and letterman center Gwenaelle Gouloba also played their final games in their community college careers.
[Photo--Lancer Ella Stepanian makes a circus shot to end first half at East Los Angeles College, image by Richard Quinton.]