Women's Basketball Winning With Defense, Now 10-2

PCC's Dariel Johnson has led the team to a 10-2 start and No. 7 state ranking this season.
PCC's Dariel Johnson has led the team to a 10-2 start and No. 7 state ranking this season.

Ranked No. 7 in last week's State Top 20 Coaches Poll, the Pasadena City College women's basketball team ran its sparkling overall record to 10-2 after finishing 2-1 at the College of the Desert Classic Dec. 14-16. PCC's defense has been a big reason for the early-season success as the team is No. 3 in the state in points allowed at 49.7 per game.

Coach Joe Peron's Lancers beat Mission College for the second time this month (the other at the College of the Sequoias Gilcrest Inviational), 69-57, on Sunday. PCC led by as much as 12, but Mission came back to briefly tie it at 44-44 late in the third quarter. But in a span of a minute, the Lancers distanced themselves again on distance shooting as Cosette Balmy, Daniela Mendez and Jade Lin all netted 3s. Balmy finished off a dizzying 13-0 run that gave PCC a 57-44 lead at the end of three quarters. 

Sophomore center Dariel Johnson continues to be one of the state's top all-around players as she scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Lin, a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-pointers, Balmy (eight assists), and Mendez (10 rebounds) each scored 12 points. Mariah Cathcart added eight points, six boards and made four of the team's 13 steals. Alexandra Arreola had six points.

In a rematch of last year's SoCal Regionals Round 2 matchup on Saturday, No. 14-ranked Mt. San Jacinto continued its current hex on the Lancers, 65-54. While PCC has an 8-6 series lead during Peron's 23 seasons, the Eagles have won six straight v. the Lancers dating back to 2009-2010. The teams traded the lead 16 times during the first three quarters.

A layup by Mendez put the Lancers ahead, 41-40, with 4:40 left in the period. However, PCC went stone cold at that point. MSJC scored the final four points of that period, then the first five of the fourth quarter. It wasn't until Kailey Thai made two free throws that a scoreless slump of eight minutes, 38 seconds ended. 

While Pasadena shut down the Eagles starting five to just 31 combined points, it was Mt. San Jacinto's reserve Britney Neely scoring 16 points, including making four of the Eagles' eleven 3-pointers in the contest. For PCC, Balmy was 11-for-16 from the free throw line as part of her 13 points (and seven assists). Johnson was again a post machine with 10 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks. Cathcart totaled 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Melissa Felix made a trio of treys for all nine of the team's points off the bench.

PCC held its own v. the state's top rebounding team, outrebounding the Eagles, 48-42. MSJC averages 54.2 per game. 

In the Desert opener, the Lancers raced to a giant 38-15 lead late in the first half and coasted to a 66-55 victory over Fullerton. PCC's starting five accounted for all of the team's points including a game-high 24 by Johnson, who also contributed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots. She was 9-for-14 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line. Balmy chipped in 12 points, seven boards and seven assists, Thai 12 points and three steals, and Mendez also reached double figures with 12 points. Cathcart added eight points.

PCC is off to its best season start in seven years when it was 10-1 to begin the 2010-11 season. Johnson is second in the state in total individual rebounds with 167, 13.9 per game (second in the state for players with 10 or more games played).

The Lancers close the year 2018 on Dec. 27-29 at the annual San Jose City College Lady Jaguar Invitational. PCC begins the 8-team tourney with a 3 p.m. contest on Thursday, Dec. 27 against Fresno City College.