The 14th seeded Pasadena City College women's basketball team played sound defense and used a late second-quarter scoring run to defeat No. 19 Rio Hondo College, 65-54, in Round 1 of the Southern California Regional Playoffs Wednesday night. PCC improved to 20-2 in its history at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium in rewarding head coach Joe Peron with a win in his 50th postseason contest.
The Lancers (17-13 overall) travels to face No. 3 Ventura in Round 2 of the regionals on Saturday, Feb. 27. PCC is 3-2 in its playoff history v. the Pirates with Ventura winning the last meeting, 55-50, in Round 2 of the 2012 regionals. One of the great playoff contests in California Community College women's basketball history came in 2009 when the Lancers upset then No. 1 seed Ventura, 106-93, in the CCCAA state semifinals. PCC would go on to capture the 2009 state title.
Against Rio Hondo, the Lancers led 13-8 after one quarter but were in a tight game at 21-19 with five minutes left in the second period. At that point, PCC went on a 13-5 scoring spurt capped by a basket by Ilianna Blanc to take a 34-24 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, sophomore guard Judith Espinoza scored 10 of her game-high 17 points as PCC kept its double-digit advantage at 52-40. Rio Hondo got as close as 58-50 but the Lancers defense held the Roadrunners to just four points in the final six minutes to seal the playoff victory.
Espinoza added nine assists and seven rebounds in big performance from the team's court leader. Blanc added 15 points and seven rebounds while being a defensive demon with five steals and three blocked shots. Guard Ella Stepanian was steady as well with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
PCC's bench played well with eight points and five rebounds by Patience Madayag and seven points by Kyrstin Nakamura. Defensive specialist Jolene Robinson grabbed six rebounds and had two points. The Lancers controlled the ball on offense, making only seven turnovers.
For Rio Hondo (14-14), Justine Manjarrez and Bianca Garcia (pulled down 13 rebounds) each scored 13 points.
"Defense was the difference," Peron said. "We did a lot of switching and we were able to limit Rio Hondo's perimeter shooting. Ilianna had a big game in the post for us, really stepped up. We now have to go to Ventura and that's going to be a real challenge for us."
The Lancers split two games against Ventura in pre-conference play. PCC lost to the Pirates, 68-61, at the Glendale Tournament on Nov. 20, then returned the favor by beating the Pirates, 62-57, on Dec. 5 at the College of the Sequoias Tournament.
Peron is 33-17 in all postseason games. Espinoza moved into seventh place on the school's all-time scoring list with 871 points.
[Photo--Judith Espinoza drive to the basket during the Lancers win over Rio Hondo Wednesday night, image by Richard Quinton.]