By Carlos Alvarez
In a matchup of two of the state’s top women’s basketball teams this season, No. 3-ranked East Los Angeles College was defeated by No. 1-ranked Mt. San Antonio College 83-72 on Feb. 6 at ELAC’s men’s gym.
With the loss ELAC’s overall record moves to 23-3, 3-2 in the South Coast Conference South division, Mt. SAC remains undefeated at 27-0, 5-0 in SCC South division.
“We knew that it was going to be a dogfight. They’re (ELAC) a very good team. The game came down to making the right plays at the right time,” Mt. SAC Head Coach Brian Crichlow said.
Coming into the game, ELAC was riding an eight game winning-streak behind its stingy defense and balanced offensive attack, but Mt. SAC was just better prepared.
“We just took our time on offense and we were the team that kept its composure at the end of the game. We knew that they will pressure us all game, but we were just ready,” Mt. SAC forward John’ea Thompson said.
Thompson was a force inside for the Mounties scoring 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting while collecting six rebounds.
With Thompson dominating the paint, Mt. SAC guard Gina Henderson had space to be aggressive drawing ELAC defenders to foul her constantly on her drives to the basket.
Henderson’s aggressiveness resulted in 16 points as she was perfect from the line making all 10 of her free throws, she also grabbed eight rebounds.
With the game tied at 30 to start the second half, the lack of depth for the Huskies was apparent.
“They (Mt. SAC) focused on stopping two of our best players and they did a good job. We needed other players to step up,” ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner said.
ELAC was led by the trio of forward Jocelyne Diaz and guards Olivia Ochoa and Kyla Martin-Burnley.
Diaz scored 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting while adding a team-high seven rebounds. Ochoa and Martin-Burnley both scored 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting, but failed to get other players involved.
ELAC guard Dynasti Shelby was the lone player to provide an offensive spark for the Huskies, scoring eight points on 4-for-8 shooting.
“We didn’t move the ball well today. Olivia (Ochoa) and Kyla (Martin-Burnley) will dominate the ball most of our plays, but they know what it takes to win,” Turner said.
While ELAC struggled offensively, defensively it lacked the execution that propel it to victory numerous times this season.
“We were pressing them, but we weren’t getting to the rights spots. Today it seemed like we were a step slower,” Diaz said.
According to Martin-Burnley, ELAC needs to execute better and let the game come its players.
“If we rebound the ball better and make our free throws we will be the ones celebrating,” Martin-Burnley said.
ELAC made 20-of-37 free throws, shooting a dismal 54 percent from the charity strike and they were also out rebounded 43-27 by Mt. SAC.
According to Turner, the Huskies played with toughness and determination, but they ran out of gas at the end of the game.
“Shelby played good minutes to give her some rest, but when she fouled out we had to stick with our best player,” Turner said.
A fatigued Ochoa was 5-for-11 from the free-throw line, 2-for-7 in the last five minutes of the game.
With a minute left in the game and ELAC trailing 80-69, Ochoa was given a technical foul for committing a hard foul on Henderson.
“It was a good hard foul, things got chippy at the end. I never complain with the officiating it’s part of the game,” Crichlow said.
“We just have to move forward and learn from this game. We have big games coming up next week against Pasadena and Trade Tech,” Martin-Burnley said.
ELAC travels to Pasadena City College to face the Lancers Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.
“Its just one game, nothing has changed. We are going to the state championship and you can put that in writing,” a confident Turner said.