Battle of the Defense Goes PCC Women's Hoops Way, 46-41

Lancer Zaida Velasquez in action during a recent PCC game.
Lancer Zaida Velasquez in action during a recent PCC game.

With two of the state's top three defensive teams meeting up, Friday's Pasadena City College women's basketball contest v. Glendale was every bit a struggle to score. The Vaqueros led 1-0 after the game's first five minutes and held a 19-17 halftime lead.

The squads traded baskets slowly during the second half before PCC strung together a rare scoring spurt with four straight baskets inside the final four minutes to grind out a 46-41 victory at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. The state's No. 8-ranked Lancers improved to 13-3 while No. 16-rated Glendale dropped to 11-3. The game was part of the first round of the 16-team, Crossover Challenge Tournament played at various SoCal locations and hosted by El Camino College. 

There were six lead changes during the fourth quarter, the last taking place on a layup by Zaira Velasquez that gave PCC a 38-37 advantage with four minutes remaining. Dariel Johnson and Kailey Thai followed with inside baskets and Johnson capped the run on a baseline jumper for a commanding 44-37 lead with 1:51 left. The Vaqueros made it interesting, cutting it to 44-41, but Cosette Balmy iced the win on a pair of free throws with 12.4 seconds to go in the game.

Johnson was the biggest factor for the Lancers with precision shooting. Besides hitting the team's only 3-pointer in the first half, the sophomore center was 9-for-11 from the field overall and finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocked shots. She scored 15 of her points over the last 20 minutes and keyed the victory with tough post defense while finding cracks through Glendale's zone for open buckets. Balmy added 14 points and five assists while Velasquez tallied four points and eight boards.

For Glendale, Sylvia Varazarian led her squad on 11 points and 15 rebounds and Cheyenne Jankulovski had 10 points. 

Through Friday, Glendale was the state leader in lowest points per game allowed at 50.2 while PCC was third at 50.6. Both teams scored their season lows. 

PCC awaits to find out its Crossover Challenge semifinals opponent. If Ventura defeats West Los Angeles on Saturday, the Lancers will host Ventura in another saga in their long rivalry on Wednesday, Jan. 9. If West LA upsets the Pirates, Pasadena will travel to play the Wildcats.