By Carlos Alvarez
The No. 2-seed East Los Angeles College women’s basketball team finished the game on a 16-4 run, defeating the No. 7-seed El Camino College 70-56 in the quarterfinal Southern Regional playoff matchup on March 4 at ELAC.
“They’re (ELAC) a very confident team that has a winning mentality. ELAC made the smart plays at the end and they hit their free throws,” El Camino Head Coach Steve Shaw said.
The Huskies’ concern heading into the playoffs was its free throw shooting, but they have put that concern to rest in its first two games of the playoffs.
“They’re going to the line and just making them. We know that playoff games come down to free throws, we keep making them we’ll keep playing,” ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner said.
ELAC shot 80 percent (28-for-35) from the free throw line, helping them overcome a poor shooting night from the field. The Huskies shot a combined 33.9 percent (19-for-56) from the field.
ELAC was led by freshman standout guard Olivia Ochoa, who was the aggressor throughout the game.
Ochoa scored 18 points shooting 5-for-18 from the field, and went eight of nine from the free-throw line.
“Olivia started the game cold, but she was able to make adjustments and make the plays for us at the end,” Turner said.
The Huskies led at halftime, 34-25, behind a bounce back performance by ELAC sophomore forward Jocelyne Diaz.
In a surprise move by Turner, Diaz came off the bench after starting every game in the regular season and their playoff game against Antelope Valley College.
“I wanted her (Diaz) to just take a step back and look at the game. I wanted her to visualize her game plan and attack it, she was great,” Turner said.
Diaz scored 16 points with 12 of them coming in the first half. Diaz also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
In the second half, El Camino’s on-ball pressure forced ELAC into some tough passes. The Warriors forced ELAC into 21 turnovers, five of them coming in the first five minutes of the second half to take a 43-40 lead.
“They (El Camino) came out and punched us in the face to start the second half, they played hard the entire game,” Turner said.
El Camino sophomore guard Sydney Chase got the Warrior offense on track with her three-point shooting. Chase shot 7-for-13 from the three-point line, scoring 21 points (15 in the 2nd half).
“I felt I could’ve done more for my team. We had to fight back, and when you’re behind, you waste more energy trying to come back,” Chase said.
El Camino sophomore forward Shontalene Trudeau added 13 points shooting 40 percent from the field.
“We played our hearts out. We didn’t have a good start in the game, but we never felt that we had no chance,” Trudeau said.
According to Turner, his team just needed to withstand El Camino’s run. He explained that he didn’t want to call a timeout when their nine-point halftime lead was cut to two, 40-38. “We’ll take teams’ best runs and will come back with a run of our own. I was never panicked,” Turner said.
Diaz explained that the team never lost confidence in one another and when things got tough everyone remained calm.
“We made a good run, but their players played their role and produced. They’re (ELAC) a deep team,” Shaw said.
With seven minutes remaining, ELAC regained a 49-47 lead that they will not relinquish.
The ELAC trio of freshman forward Abigail Vasquez, freshman guard Vianey Chavez and sophomore forward Guadalupe Perez combined to score 23 points off the bench.
Vasquez scored nine points, shooting 4-for-6 from the field while grabbing five rebounds. Her scoring came in the post, exciting both ELAC and El Camino crowd with her footwork.
“I was more patient in the post. I felt the defender and I just went to work. I’m happy I played good and that my team had confidence in me,” Vasquez said.
Chavez scored nine points (2-for-3 from the field) and grabbed five rebounds. Perez scored five points while grabbing five rebounds (four offensive).
“It was a great team win. We made the right plays when we had too. We trusted each other today,” Turner said.
ELAC will host the No. 3-seed Irvine Valley College tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with the winner advancing to the State Championships at Cerritos College March 14-16.
“We need one more to reach our goal, but it will be a tough one. We beat them (Irvine Valley) in overtime early in the season, but playoffs is a different story,” Turner said.