For the past several seasons, the Pasadena City College women's basketball team has kept a bridge in consistency with identifiable players and leaders that included record-setting point guard Judith Espinoza (2014-16) and top-flight post players Ilianna Blanc and Kailyn Gideon (2015-2017).
With all three moving on to university scholarships, long-time PCC head coach Joe Peron (22nd season on the bench) has had to reload and bring in a new set of faces to define the Lancers going into the 2017-18 season. The team returns only two players in All-South Coast Conference, 6-foot-3 center-forward Alisa Shinn and reserve point guard Samaiyah Abdullah.
Peron went to work in the off-season and landed some impact recruits in 6-2 guard Celine Bolton-Ford (Ribet Academy, All-CIF Southern Section Division 5AA) and 6-2 center-forward Mercy Odima (Village Christian and orginally from Kenya, Africa). Odima played on this past season's CIF champion team at VCHS as the starting center. She was a Daily News All-American who averaged a 13-plus, double-double in points and rebounds during her junior season. Another among the Lancers group of 10 newcomers (nine freshmen) is point guard and 3-point shooting specialist Jade Lin (South Pasadena High), an All-Rio Hondo League honorable mention.
On Friday night, the Lancers saw immediate results from some of the incoming players in a 76-49, season-opening rout over Bakersfield at the Renegades' Turner & Stanley Crossover Tournament. Bolton-Ford was a force in her collegiate debut as she scored 20 points (9-for-17 from the field), grabbed 17 rebounds, led the team in assists with five, while making three steals and blocking two shots on defense. Assisted by Bolton-Ford, Odima also dominated the post with 20 points (10-for-12 from the floor, .833 FG percentage), nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Shinn, who was perhaps the team's best performer in last season's regional playoffs, added 15 points (6-for-7 from the field), eight rebounds and blocked three shots. Last season, the former CIF Southern Section Player of the Year (Crescenta Valley High) averaged 11.9 points and 9.7 rebounds on a 21-10 Lancers squad. Shinn could follow as a state shot block leader following Gideon's state-leading marks of last season.
"I have these three really talented big kids, and all three can run the floor, shoot, rebound, and play with intensity," Peron said of his Tower Trio of Shinn, Bolton-Ford and Odima. "They are going to have to keep us in games because we don't have as much depth as the past few seasons. We've had some good playoff success and hope to challenge again this season. It's definitely a changeover year for us, but we may be tougher than some of our talented, more finesse teams of the past."
Guard Merina Latu (Glendale High) joined Abdullah to round out the opening night starting lineup. Lin came off the bench and scored 12 points v. Bakersfield, including a pair of treys. Latu helped Glendale High to one of the school's greatest seasons as a senior when she averaged 11.5 points a game as the Nitros advanced to the CIF Division II-A semifinals earlier this year.
The rest of the '17-18 Lancers are as follows: guards Chazloyn Bradford (Denbigh High, Virginia), Stephanie Reyes (Franklin High), Elise Ortega (Ribet Academy), and sophomore Zhane Stigler (Lakeview Centennial HS, Texas), and forwards Tatianna Shoals (Pasadena HS), and 5-11 Erika Sato (Mark Keppel High). Stigler is an experienced performer who originally earned a scholarship and played as a freshman at Alcorn State University (2014-15).
Peron picked up his career 485th victory against Bakersfield and expects to reach the coveted 500-win mark this season.
The Lancers face Antelope Valley College on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. to complete the Bakersfield round-robin tourney.
PCC will host the 2nd President's Roundball Classic next Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 9-11 at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. The Lancers open that tourney with an 8 p.m. contest against Los Angeles Southwest.