By Andrew Ruiz
After suffering their first loss of the season on Dec. 5, the East Los Angeles College women’s basketball team defeated Santa Monica College, 61-51, in the consolation championship at the Lady Charger Classic at Cypress College two days later.
Sophomore forward Jocelyn Diaz dominated the paint and led all scorers with a double-double, scoring 23 points, shooting 7-for-16 from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds for the Huskies.
The Corsair’s had no answer to contain Diaz’s inside presence.
“Jocelyn (Diaz) is one of the strongest ladies (on the team),” ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner said. “She’s tough-minded, determined and a lot of times she’s undersized, but she works so hard that she gets the job done.”
Diaz, 5’7”, didn’t let her size affect her and accepted the challenge at hand when matching up with SMC’s centers who had two to three inches on her.
“There’s going to be bigger players than me, but I’m not afraid to guard anybody who’s bigger than me,” Diaz said. “I’m pretty small, but it doesn’t matter about the size. It matters what’s on the inside.”
Despite the height disvantage, the Huskies won the battle in the paint, 28-22, and scored 16 points off turnovers.
“We needed this win after Friday’s loss,” Diaz said. “I had to bring the team together and this win was definitely important.”
SMC showed glimpses of a comeback cutting the lead to two at halftime, 28-26, but the Huskies came out in the second half and extended the lead to 13 with 1:46 left in the game.
“I told them (during halftime) they had to pass the ball,” Turner said. “We went up nine then all of a sudden we want to do all of these great shots and one-on-one plays. We passed the ball and then we got easy shots.”
Freshman guards Olivia Ochoa and Kyla Martin-Burnley were also key players in the Huskies’ victory. Ochoa finished the game with 11 points and four assists, while Martin-Burnley capped in 16 points, six rebounds and four steals.
Martin-Burley also received All-Tournament honors. The Huskies were striving to remain undefeated entering the tournament, but fell short, 102-94, in an overtime upset by West Los Angeles College giving the team its first lost of the season.
ELAC came back with vengeance the next day defeating Grossmont College, 76-60, prior to facing SMC.
“It was a great response. We knew we shouldn’t have lost (on Friday). We did a great job of holding a high-scoring team down to 51 points,” Turner said. “(We had an) outstanding defensive effort as a group and we played great defense on their three-point shooters. It was a good quality win against a good team.”
The Huskies are 8-1 overall and look to extend their two-game winning streak this week as they prepare to face Rio Hondo Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.
Turner’s main focus and key to another victory are making sure the team continues to focus on the defensive end and dominate the glass.
“Anytime you can dominate the rebounding, you want the ball and that’s the key to the game,” Turner said. “In the past years, we’ve struggled rebounding the ball, but this is the best rebounding team we’ve had in years.”