The Pasadena City College women's basketball team has consistently been a state upper-ranked team and playoff threat under long-time head coach Joe Peron, now beginning his 24th season. The 2019-2020 Lancers should be no different with the return of All-State First Team multiple-position player Dariel Johnson and All-South Coast Conference First Team point guard Cosette Balmy.
The duo helped PCC go 19-11 and reach the SoCal Regional finals (third round) last season. Already, the pair has proven to be key contributors as the Lancers opened the season with two wins at the Bakersfield Crossover Classic.
On Saturday, Balmy sank the game-winning free throw with two seconds left to give PCC a 51-50 victory over host Bakersfield. Balmy finished with a game-high 18 points, including 10-for-14 at the line. Johnson added eight points, 15 rebounds, and three steals.
In the '19-20 opener on Friday, Johnson, who was the PCC Women's All-Sports Athlete of the Year for 2018-19 and the SCC Freshman of the Year, had a typical DJ performance with 12 points, 13 rebounds, five blocked shots (led the state the year before) and three steals in a 62-48 triumph over Antelope Valley. Balmy, who averaged 13.2 points, 5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.2 assists as a freshman, was the scoring leader with 18 points to go with five assists and five steals. Merina Latu, a returning shooting guard from the 2017-18 Lancers who averaged 8.3 points a game that season, contributed eight points and made a team-high six steals.
"Having Dariel and Cosette back makes a huge difference," Peron said. "It's the first time in five years I've had my leading freshmen scorers return the next season. As a team, I feel like we have depth, quickness, and for the first time in a few years we have more than a couple of players who can shoot the 3-pointer. Another dynamic is we can run out a big lineup if we have too or a smaller, quicker group with Dariel being able to adjust to either rotation."
The incoming freshmen group features two members of the 2019 All-San Gabriel Valley Tribune Team in 5-10, First Teamer Pamela Gonzalez, from Workman High, and 5-7 Second Team selection Kristal Espinoza, Rosemead High's top scorer as a senior. Both players are guard-forwards. Other newcomers are 5-11 forward Jillian Goines (Diamond Ranch High) and guard Lizette Espinoza (Eagle Rock), the younger sister of current PCC assistant coach and former All-SCC guard Judith Espinoza. Angela Garcia, a 5-8 guard-forward from a strong Mark Keppel High program, and two out-of-state talents--Monet Penson (guard-forward, Mascoutah, Illinois) and Kaniya Hill (guard, Eufaula, Alabama) round out the 14-player PCC roster.
"Both Kristal Espinoza and Gonzalez are scorers and I like the potential for Goines as a rebounder in the paint," Peron said. "Another thing that helps is my returning assistant coaches include my former player in Judith and my assistant the past decade in Gary Potts. They both understand my philosophy and that means everyone is on the same page."
Peron also added a new assistant coach in Jordan Jackson.
The Lancers host the 4-team, Chick-fil-A Tournament on Friday-Saturday, Nov. 8-9 on the refurbished new floor at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. PCC hosts San Diego City College on Friday (7 p.m.) and then play against Imperial Valley on Saturday at 1 p.m.
PCC won't begin the very tough, SCC North Division schedule until Jan. 24 of the new year against visiting Rio Hondo College. State Tournament participants Los Angeles Trade Tech and East Los Angeles along with long-time rival Mt. San Antonio are also part of what experts consider the most competitive conference in the state.