By Carlos Alvarez
In their last game of the regular season, the state’s No. 3-ranked East Los Angeles College team defeated Los Angeles Trade Tech College 89-79 on Feb. 18.
With the victory, ELAC received the No. 2-seed in the 2015 California Community College Athletic Association Southern Regional women’s basketball playoffs.
ELAC finishes the regular season 26-3, 6-2 in the South Coast Conference South division. Trade Tech’s record falls to 13-12, 2-5 in the SCC South division with only a road game at Pasadena remaining.
“We knew we had to win and we accomplished that, now we can focus on our bigger goal and that’s making a deep playoff run,” ELAC sophomore forward Jocelyne Diaz said.
Before the start of the game, sophomores Diaz, Kristina Tatikian, Jacqueline Macias, siblings Kimberly and Guadalupe Perez were recognized and celebrated by their coaching staff, teammates and family members on Sophomore night.
“They’re all a great bunch of girls. The Perez sisters did anything for the program. Macias and Kris (Tatikian) hit some big three’s for us. Jocelyne (Diaz) will be hard to replace, she’s our inside presence,” ELAC Head Coach Turner said.
Wearing their pink uniforms to raise breast cancer awareness, the Huskies took control of the game early behind the play of freshman backup guard Vianey Sanchez.
Sanchez scored 12 points shooting 5-for-8 from the field, 10 of them coming in the first half to give ELAC a 49-39 lead at halftime.
“Our bench gave our team a spark. Vianey (Sanchez) was aggressive and she made some shots,” Turner said.
With the offense clicking on all cylinders the ELAC defense was executing their full-court press to perfection.
“We were in the right spots on defense. We forced them into some bad passes that led to easy baskets,” ELAC freshman guard Kyla Martin-Burnley said.
According to Turner, the Huskies could have played better defensive, but have a full week of practice to work on tightening up its full court press.
Trade Tech was led by the sophomore duo of guard Tasheba Henry and forward Adriana Anderson.
Henry was aggressive throughout the game scoring 26 points, but most of her points came when the game was already decided. Anderson dominated the paint scoring 25 points with a game-high 16 points in the first half.
“ELAC did a good job of pressing Tasheba (Henry). They found a way to keep trapping her in order to get the ball to other players. We needed other players to make some shots,” LA Trade Tech Head Coach Sherwyn Morgan said.
In the second half, ELAC’s trio of Diaz, Martin-Burnley and freshman guard Olivia Ochoa took control of the offense to build a 85-72 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.
Diaz scored a team-high 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting with seven rebounds and three key blocks.
“I had to have a good game on Sophomore night. I enjoyed every moment these past two years. ELAC grew on me. We still have unfinished business, we got to keep winning,” Diaz said.
Martin-Burnley scored 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Ochoa added 19 points, but struggled from the field (4-for-12) and the free-throw line (9-for-15).
Ochoa was not the only player to struggle from the charity stripe ELAC combined to shoot a dismal 56.1 percent (23-for-41) from the free throw line.
According to Turner, the key to advancing in the playoffs is making your free-throws in the last minutes of game that’s what decides the winner.
“We have over a week to prepare and work on our free throws. We know what it takes to advance now we just have to execute,” Diaz said.
ELAC will host the winner of a first round matchup between the No. 15-seed Antelope Valley College and No. 18-seed San Bernardino Valley College on Feb. 28.
“We have to protect our home court. We will have a high seed, meaning more home playoff games. We take advantage, we keep playing,” Turner said.