Freshman guard Naomi Turner waited for her teammate, Lupe Vazquez, to come off of a down screen near the 3-point baseline. As Vazquez lethargically trotted from one side of the court to the other side, Turner decided to make something happen before the shot clock expired. On her initial step, Turner fell to the floor and the ball bounced to the other side of the court. The well-rested Rio Hondo players made the uncontested fast-break sequence look like the George Mikan drill. It was a testament to the number of injuries they’ve endured over the course of the season.
PCC was defeated by Rio Hondo College 57-85 Wednesday, February 23. To make matters worse, this is Joe Peron’s worst record in his 24 years as head coach.
PCC showed up with seven players for their second to last game of the season. Technically, they had five players. One student-athlete was always receiving treatment from the medical staff and starting point guard Maiya Villanueva was coming off an injury and played limited minutes. She rolled her ankle against L.A. Trade Tech.
“I felt a little weird because I was just coming back from an injury,” Villanueva said. “This is my first game back and my time was limited and of course I knew every time I stepped on the court, I was limited and couldn’t do as much as I wanted. Plus, with the injury I couldn’t move the way that I know that I can move. I just have to be patient and adjust with what I have.”
Rio Hondo showed up with 10 players in uniform and none of their student-athletes needed treatment. It may have not been their game plan, but their health was the prevailing factor.
At the start of the game, Rio Hondo had trouble scoring offensively. They received the majority of their points off of turnovers. They trapped PCC at halfcourt and forced them to pass out of double teams. This is when PCC needed their point guard the most, but Villanueva wouldn’t come into the game until the second quarter.
Even with Villanueva out of the game, Vazquez was able to keep PCC afloat with an onslaught of offensive repertoire. Vazquez put her head down and dribbled into the paint after coming off of a screen. The Rio Hondo defender fell from the impact of hip-to-hip contact. That’s when Vazquez dribbled inside of a packed paint, allowing the defenders to come to her. She dished it off to Turner for the easy layup.
PCC lead at the end of the first quarter, 19-11.
As time went by, the turnovers from the Lancers started to increase. Rio Hondo forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter. Halfway through the second quarter, Rio Hondo tied the game off of another turnover. PCC managed to move ahead 28-27 but this was the last time the game was remotely close. Rio Hondo closed out the second quarter 33-30.
Coach Joe Peron tried to tell the team that they should use more ball fakes and limit turnovers but the Lancers looked gassed. When asked about trying to trap at halfcourt like Rio Hondo, Peron said that they didn’t have the women power.
Right before the third quarter started, Rio Hondo’s entire team was practicing layups and shooting free throws. PCC was nowhere to be found. In fact, the team didn’t walk onto the court until two minutes before the start of the third quarter. Even this seemed unconventional.
As the turnovers racked up, Rio Hondo kept rotating players in and out of their lineup, the lead increased. PCC averaged a turnover every minute and a half. With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, PCC was down 47-74. By the end of the game, they had 27 turnovers.
Vazquez is the third leading scorer in the state, but the amount of minutes that she’s been as of late have taken its toll. Tonight she played 39 minutes, which is all but one minute for the entire game. She played 40 minutes against L.A. Trade Tech five days prior to tonight’s matchup and two nights before that she played another 40 minutes. Even on a routine rebound, Vazquez fumbled the ball out of bounds with nobody around.
“I’ve been grateful for this season,” Vazquez said. “I’ve taken this more as a learning experience because we had a tough season. Like today, I don’t think I played well at all. It’s just what I’m going to take from the game. I did bad, so I have to grow from my mistakes.”
“No,” Vazquez vehemently responded if she’s ever had a season like this before.
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