By Tadzio Garcia
With their backs to the wall, East Los Angeles College put together a regular season-ending 6-2 run to earn a California Community College Athletic Association basketball playoff bid.
It was an improbable ending after a disastrous 1-4 start in South Coast Conference play and the first playoff game for the sophomores.
The No. 11-seeded Huskies fell short of upsetting the No. 3-seeded Los Angeles Valley College with a 92-88 overtime loss in the Southern Regional second round game on Feb. 28.
The season-changing game was a 72-67 upset home win over Pasadena City College on Feb. 7, the first in years of a non-ranked ELAC women’s team beating a top-10 ranked team.
Pasadena was almost unstoppable coming into the game having won 10 of 11 games only losing to current state semifinalist Mt. San Antonio College, 65-61. Mt. SAC edged ELAC twice during SCC play by five and six points.
“We had something to prove playing Pasadena. We weren’t ranked and knew we could win,” ELAC center Karina Ortiz said.
The shocker against Pasadena put the Huskies in a position for a playoff bid.
“No matter how tough the challenges were the Lady Huskies never quit. This was a group that fought through adversity all year. We had seven come-from-behind victories with (rallies) in the last three minutes of those games,” seven year ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner said.
“The team was led by sophomores Dioseline Lopez, Ortiz, Alexis Valles and Angelica Trinidad. The four have offers to play at the next level,” Turner said. None have publicly announced any official decisions.
Guard Lopez led the SCC in assists and center Ortiz led in blocked shots. Both women were third-best in the state in these categories, the first time two Huskies in one season finished in the state’s top-three during Turner’s helm.
Ortiz’s blocked shots drew loud responses from crowds in each game, whether on the road or at home, including ELAC fans jumping to their feet in both Pasadena games.
Lopez and Ortiz leave ELAC as two-time All-SCC team members. This season both were named to the All-SCC North Division First Team with Lopez adding SCC North Division Player-of-the-Year to her credit.
Freshmen guard Taylor Smith and forward Jocelyn Diaz were named to the All-SCC North Division First and Second Teams, respectively. Guard Trinidad was named to the SCC North Division Second Team. Diaz led the SCC in shooting percentage (.547) according to the CCCAA website.
The Huskies were No. 11-ranked in the state after they began the season with an 8-1 record, including two tournament championships.
ELAC won their own tournament with a 70-56 victory over Saddleback College on Nov. 23 and also won the Lady Charger Classic over host Cypress College, 69-67, on Dec. 8.
Smith was named to the ELAC All-Tournament Team while Lopez, Ortiz and Trinidad were named to the Cypress All-Tournament team. Lopez named the Most Valuable Player in Cypress.
The Huskies took third place in the Mission College Saints Classic Tournament in Santa Clara, going 2-1 against highly regarded Northern California teams to begin the season. Smith was also named to the Mission All-Tournament team.
ELAC won third place at the Ventura College Optimist Club Holiday Tournament to end non-conference play on Dec. 30.
Starter Smith returns next season a veteran with standouts Diaz, guards Jasmine Gates and Monique Salcido along with guard Kristina Tatikian, forward Jazmine Avila and center Jamilet Cortez. Guard Stephanie Rodriguez ends her ELAC career as a two-year starter.
ELAC ended the season with six wins against ranked opponents and four playoff teams.