By Dan Gudino
The No. 1 state ranked women’s basketball team finished with its best regular season ever and netted its first ever South Coast Conference North title at home, Feb. 17, with a commanding 78-49 win over Pasadena City College.
It’s fitting the East Los Angeles College Huskies women’s team chronicles its own history, across the country, University of Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball is on a historic run, a 101-game win streak
Far from the excellence of a UConn team, ELAC proudly finishes the regular season 26-2, surpassing by percentage points the previous 26-3 regular season record finish of 2014-15.
It’s the first conference title in 11 years for ELAC Head Coach Bruce Turner.
“It’s been a long time coming, but the journey, I would not give it up, nothing. This group has really performed. The young ladies, they’ve put in a ton of work to make this a special season,” Turner said.
Husky sophomore guard, Tiffani Martinez was on fire from behind the three-point line. Martinez, currently the 4th best three-point shooter in the state, at one point in the game drained three threes consecutively, finishing with five 3-pointers.
Martinez finished with a game-high 17-points, tying teammate sophomore forward, Katrina Reeves’ 17-pts as she came off the bench and recorded a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds.
“This means so much to us to do it for Turner. Last year, we fell short, but this year we have a great set of girls and we’ll get it done,” Martinez said.
The biggest question into the playoffs is, ‘Can ELAC get past Mount San Antonio College?’ Its archrival is a historic program, winners of seven of the last 12 state championships, Mt. SAC owns the Huskies.
In 2011, ELAC was knocked out of the state final four by Mt. SAC and since then ELAC has won one of the last nine. That includes the heartbreak loss of last year’s state title game, where the Huskies at one point in the match were up 19 points.
On a day off, the Huskies felt the wrath of Mt. SAC. Monday afternoon after the California Community College Athletic Association, released the Southern California Regional Playoff bracket, ELAC was placed No. 2, despite its No. 1 state ranking. Mt. SAC was ranked No. 1 in So. Cal.
The reason behind ELAC being snubbed and placed at a No. 2 ranking into the playoffs is the split of games this season between the two schools. ELAC winning one, Mt. SAC winning the other.
The first game ELAC was pounced on, 85-62, in mid-Jan. Then on Feb. 3, the toughness of the Huskies responded and punched back, winning Mt. SAC, 71-59 on the road. Hence, a combined score of 144 to 133, in favor of Mt. SAC, the Huskies falling short again.
“It’s been a rough journey, it’s been long, but well deserving for the girls to get this one tonight. Every season, we’ve got better and this season has the feel of the one (season) that we’ll take that next step,” Assistant Coach Sarai Trinidad said.
Through the losses to Mt. SAC, the Huskies were always criticized for lack of toughness. This year’s team, over does tough and puts it to new heights.
The ELAC bench play is the heartbeat of the Huskies, outscoring the opponents bench in all but four games, out rebounding opponents in 20 of the 28 games and physically out dueling opponents in the mental game.
Pushing, shoving and bodies diving to the floor in effort for the ball is seen in all Husky games.
At one point in the 4th period against PCC, with a huge lead, leading scorer of Huskies freshman guard, Monica Garcia and a PCC player were tangled on the floor at midcourt.
Garcia used the body of the PCC player to get up, a sign of disrespect to the opposing players, as both teams centered midcourt in banter, no Husky player backing down, later separated from each others faces by the referees.
“In all the years of Coach Turner, here (at ELAC), this is his best job ever. He has this team working hard and it’s amazing what he has accomplished. Its incredible,” Athletic Director Al Cone said.
Turner will eclipse 200 wins sometime next season. Currently, Turner is 191-130 all-time at ELAC.
This group of Husky players brings in a great mix of talent and personality.
“They’ve gelled so quickly, a little above expectations. Everyone has contributed to make this happen.What we do so special is play defense. We don’t allow anyone to dictate what we’re suppose to do,” Turner said.
All the way from West Auckland, New Zealand, sophomore guard Wuanyei Ah-Hing has contributed defensively and continues to develop as a player.
“Our team play is really good. Our team chemistry is great, even though we have many new players, for us to come together as a team, the way we blend is amazing,” Ah-Hing said.
There’s sophomore center Gloria Ortiz, who’s dominating presence inside the box, underneath the rim has here tenths of a point from averaging 10 pts and 10 rebounds in the season.
Risking her body and hustling for loose balls is what Ortiz is known for as she left it all on the court and later was seen embracing her toddler son after the game.
“I love basketball. I find rebounding the ball comes naturally. I love playing aggressive basketball and I’ve played with guys so it might also come from that,” Ortiz said.
ELAC, on a nine-game win streak will now wait the winner of Wednesday’s Allan Hancock College v. Santa Ana College game and host the winner on Saturday, with a time to be determined.