Playing in the toughest conference in the state, the Pasadena City College women's basketball continued its theme of strong defense to beat host Rio Hondo, 57-53, in the South Coast Conference North Division opener for both teams Wednesday evening.
The state No. 7-ranked Lancers overcame sluggish offense in the second and fourth quarters (just 13 points combined) to win their seventh in the last eight games. Rated third best in the South Region and the state leader in defense (50.6 points allowed average), PCC improved to 16-3 overall while South ranked No. 12 Rio Hondo is 13-8.
Pasadena wasted a 21-13 first-quarter lead as Rio Hondo's Christina Hilton netted a half-court shot at the first-half buzzer to put her team on top 28-27.
PCC took control again in the third quarter as Kailey Thai ignited a 16-0 run with three 3-pointers as Pasadena led 46-33 midway through the third period. Rio Hondo mounted antoher comeback cutting the lead to two, 51-49, on a Mariah Rivera layup with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. The squads traded baskets when with the Lancers leading 55-53, Cosette Balmy sank two free throw for insurance points with 25 seconds to go.
Lancers center Dariel Johnson, a SoCal State Player of the Year candidate, had a typical performance for herself, scoring 15 points, grabbing 19 rebounds (9 on the offensive boards) and blocking five shots. Johnson leads the state in blocks per game (4.5, the team also leads the state at 6.1 swats) and is third in rebounding with a 14.1 average. Balmy just missed a double-double on 10 points and nine assists while making seven rebounds and six steals. Thai finished with nine points. For RHC, Hilton scored 13 points and pulled in 22 rebounds.
Continuing its mastery over Rio Hondo, Pasadena is 14-1 against the Whittier-located college during Coach Joe Peron's era (began as coach in 1996-97).
PCC hosts state #4 East Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 25 in a 7 p.m. division matchup at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.