The PCC women’s basketball team almost pulled off a stunning comeback win at the Hutto-Patterson gymnasium on Wednesday against their crosstown rivals East LA CC Huskies, who prevailed 67-62 due to a dominating defensive performance that forced the Lady Lancers to commit way too many costly errors.

The home team had a lot of pride on the line in this return contest against ELAC, who pulled out a thrilling 93-92 overtime victory in the last few seconds on their home court on Jan. 9. PCC had a huge opportunity to join the Huskies in a tie for second place in the high-caliber South Coast North Conference.

PCC welcomed back key players like power-forward Regerina Baker and point-guard Judith Espinoza, who were missing in action against ECC Compton on Friday. Baker reunited with her family back in her home state of Florida following the passing of her Uncle and Espinoza was resting a left shoulder injury.

Both players have been instrumental in carrying the Lancers offense, with 19-year veteran head coach Joe Peron remarking that “he has never coached a team before who has relied so heavily on two players.”

East LA’s uncompromising full-court pressing defense paid dividends as they jumped out to a 27-11 lead after 12 minutes, restricting the Lady Lancer’s attacking options with Baker scoring all but three points. PCC produced a lot of turnovers and at one point the Huskie’s exasperating defense forced the Lancers into committing the cardinal sin of getting a shot clock violation.

ELAC went into the break leading 37-26, but started the second half a skeleton of themselves because PCC came out playing to their potential and making better shot selections thanks to Espinoza playing her natural game of directing the offense. This enabled the Lady Lancers to only trail 44-38 with 15 minutes left, which was the closest Pasadena came to the Huskies until the final siren.

The next 10 minutes was a blueprint of the theme of the first half. PCC gave ELAC an inch and they took a mile by bounding out to a 17 point lead in the 31st minute, which was their biggest margin all-night. The Lady Lancers took their foot off the accelerator and the Huskies were no longer a shell of themselves and went back to their tried and true method of starving PCC of the ball with suffocating defense that pressured the home team into making more sloppy errors.

Espinoza, who leads the State with 7.8 assists per game, fed freshman guard Kyrstin Nakamura the ball and she sunk PCC’s first trey of the evening and reduced ELAC’s lead to nine points with five minutes remaining. That lifted her team and sparked a resurgence that was led by freshman guard Chy’annea Hodges.

Hodges took it upon herself to take the pressure off a not yet fully-recovered Espinoza by contributing 19 points and leading the scoring with Baker, who is the second highest scorer and rebounder in the SCN conference. Hodges also chimed in with 11 rebounds, which gave her a double-double and Baker picked up 13 boards and yet another double-double.

The Muir HS product relished taking on more offensive responsibility, which has required her to increase her shooting practice and develop a more focused mindset to provide the scoring support that the Lancers have needed to compliment Baker and Espinoza’s consistent performances. Hodges felt that Espinoza’s injury limited her shooting, but she still provided the team with accurate passes.

“I’ve been going hard and practicing everyday, just doing my thing and trying to stay focused and keep my eye on the prize,” Hodges said. “Espinoza can’t really go under the basket like she usually does because of her shoulder, but she can still run up and down the court and give out some good passes.”

Hodges felt that her team was adjusting to a new defensive strategy that requires more communication from everyone.

“We started learning this new defense so we’re still trying to get that down pat, but I think mainly we just got to talk a little bit more and then we’ll have that locked down,” Hodges said.

Baker sunk a three-pointer to cut the lead down to five points with a minute remaining, but the Huskies managed to hold out the fast-finishing Lancers and take a stranglehold of second place in the conference standings.

The Lady Lancers fall to 3-3 in conference play and 16-10 overall and have the unenviable task of facing the state No. 1-ranked and undefeated Mt. SAC on Wednesday on the road at 7 p.m.

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