Judith Espinoza didn't want her community college career to end despite the odds against her 14th seeded Pasadena City College women's basketball team. So she took matters into her own hands Saturday as she tied a Lancers single-game playoff high of 35 points as visiting PCC shocked No. 3 Ventura, 72-65, in Round 2 of the SoCal Regional Playoffs.
Espinoza's scoring clinic helped PCC head coach Joe Peron continue his success against the state's career winningest head women's basketball coach--Ventura's Ned Mircetic. Peron is 10-2 in his coaching career against Mircetic teams and improved to 4-2 in postseason matchups between the two bench masters.
Pasadena (18-13) rode the hot shooting of its two-time, All-South Coast Conference First Team guard Espinoza, who made 6-for-9 on 3-point bombs and scored 21 of her points in the second half. She finished 10-for-20 from the field and 9-for-12 from the free throw line. She has 907 career points to become only the seventh player to reach 900 points in a PCC career and she is the first since Kim Smith (2008-2010, 997 points).
Ironically, it was Smith who also scored 35 points v. Ventura in the state semifinals of the 2009 CCCAA State Tournament. Kinyada Johnson hit the 35 point mark in a regional playoff win that same year over Chaffey. The Lancers went on to win the first women's state team championship of any PCC sport.
"I have a poster of Muhammad Ali on my office door that has one of his sayings--I shook up the world," Peron said. "That's what we did. I'm so proud of the effort the players put into this win. We did it with defense, but also I told them before the game we'd have to match Ventura 3 pointer for 3 pointer. They base their game off of 3-point shooting. We made nine and they had eight, so that was huge for us. Judith did exactly what a leader has to do in a big game."
In the first quarter, Ventura led 15-9, but PCC took a 19-18 first-quarter advantage on Ilianna Blanc's turnaround bank. The Pirates (26-5) pulled ahead, 32-23, but the Lancers scored the final 10 points of the second period, the last on a layup by Ella Stepanian to take a 33-32 halftime lead.
Early in third quarter, PCC's scoring run went to 15-0 on a 3-pointer by Espinoza before Ventura ended a stretch of nearly seven minutes without a basket. Ventura and PCC were tied at the end of three quarters, 52-52, after a Blanc basket with 42 seconds left in the period.
Espinoza drained another trey with 2:19 left that gave PCC its final lead at 66-65. She followed with a pair of free throws. The Pirates did not score in the final 2-1/2 minutes as PCC ran out the clock for the upset victory.
Blanc scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds while Stepanian tallied 10 points with team highs on eight rebounds and four assists. Emiko Powell contributed eight points while Kyrstin Nakamura drilled a pair of 3s for her six points.
TIME CHANGE ADDED-PCC now plays at No. 6 East Los Angeles College in Round 3 of the regionals on Wednesday Mar. 2 at 5 p.m. The earlier start time is to accomodate the ELAC men's team playoff game the same evening at 7:30 p.m. The Lancers went 1-1 v. the Huskies, including a 77-53 rout at ELAC on Feb. 12.
[Photo--Lancer Judith Espinoza drives the lane during PCC's playoff win at Ventura College Saturday, image by Richard Quinton.]