In the last several years, the East Los Angeles College basketball gymnasium has been a Huskies horror house for the Pasadena City College women's basketball team. Going into Wednesday night, the Lancers had lost six straight games at ELAC, including a remarkable three times watching their season end in losses to the host Huskies in the SoCal Regional Playoffs.
Freshman forward Kristal Espinoza wasn't a part of that streak and her steady play and soft touch near the basket resulted in her season high of 21 points as state #15-ranked PCC finally exorcised some past demons in defeating #14-rated East LA, 86-73. It was the program's first win at ELAC since 2016. PCC is 15-5 overall and tied for first place in the South Coast Conference North Division race with state #8-ranked Mt. San Antonio at 2-0.
Espinoza used her lefty shooting to score eight points in the opening quarter as the Lancers went ahead, 19-16, and she added five more points in the second period as PCC upped the lead to 45-33 by halftime. Making some fast break layups and a few nifty jumpers off the glass, Espinoza finished shooting 10-for-14 from the field. She added nine rebounds.
The Lancers led 12-2 only to see ELAC rally to take a 24-23 lead in the second quarter. It was an Espinoza layup and then a basket-and-one by the 5-foot-7 Rosemead High talent that quickly put PCC back into the lead at 28-24. Pasadena built on that lead, maintaining the advantage for the game's final 28 minutes. PCC led by as much as 17 points but a Huskies run in the third quarter cut it to 66-58. Espinoza hit a 10-foot bank to open the fourth quarter and ELAC never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
PCC sophomores Dariel Johnson (18 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and three blocks), Merina Latu (17 points), and Cosette Balmy (17 points, five assists, and three steals off the bench all complemented Espinoza's efforts. Shooting woes affected the Lancers in many previous outings at ELAC, but this time the team made 52.2 percent of its field goals. Pasadena also was an efficient 10-for-13 at the free throw line (77 percent) while the Huskies were under 50 percent at the line (12 of 25).
Johnson is at 698 career points, now 21st on PCC's all-time scoring list. Balmy reached 623 points and is 28th on that list. Head Coach Joe Peron picked up career win #536. Already the all-time winningest basketball coach at PCC, Peron is chasing PCC Hall of Fame and softball coaching legend Sandi Iverson's 562 career wins, the most by one Pasadena head coach in any sport.
Pasadena will visit LA Trade Tech on Friday, Jan. 31 before returning to Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium with a big game v. Mt. SAC. Both SCC contests have 5 p.m. tip-offs.