TORRANCE – Being in unfamiliar territory, the Glendale Community College Women’s Basketball team (22-5) has made tremendous strides this season to get to the CCCAA (California Community College Athletics Association) state playoffs. After claiming the Western State Conference championship in the East Division, the Lady Vaqs found themselves embarking on their first challenge of the postseason against the El Camino College Warriors (23-7), a familiar foe they faced earlier in the season and had previously lost to in a 62-58 game.
“Every day we’ve been going over their offense, figuring out how to get through the cracks,” said sophomore guard Cheyenne Jankulovski when asked about the team’s preparation. Although this was his first playoff appearance in 16 years, this game would be a major cornerstone for the future of the program.
The Lady Vaqs began the game on the shakey side, having only Ssophomore center Sylvia Vartazarian scoring the team’s first six points to keep them in the contest, at 6 all, for a majority of the first quarter. Although she held the team, early foul trouble forced her to sit out for a majority of the first half. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 10-9, Glendale barely staying in the game.
At the start of the second quarter, Cheyenne Jankulovski began to gain confidence as she made all five of her attempts from the field to put up 11 points and help the team to extend the lead to double digits.
Glendale went on an 11-2 scoring run to start the second quarter, before the Warriors cut the deficit 21-16 with 4:31 left in the first half.
Fortunately for the Lady Vaqs, sophomore forward Marlene Salazar, hit a crucial three-pointer to close out the second quarter and extended Glendale’s lead to 26-17.
“We went over the game plan endlessly,” Salazar said. “We knew what we had to run, offensively. We knew who had to have the ball in their hands, so I guess execution was really what helped us. When coach called a play, we were able to run it and get it to the person’s hand and just trust it.”
As the second half was underway, El Camino began to inch closer to the lead and was only down 35-30 with 5:19 left in the third. The Warriors didn’t stop there and came within three, as at the 4:23, mark GCC lead 37-34. Glendale was able to maintain a small lead, but several fouls by the Lady Vaqs kept ECC in the game for a majority of the third quarter. Glendale was able to keep a tight lead, 47-38 with a consistent effort going into the fourth quarter.
As the nerves flew in at the start of the fourth quarter, GCC played their best quarter of the game, outscoring the Warriors 24-17. Glendale didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal and came away with a 71-55 victory. Overcome with emotion and pure excitement, the team embraced themselves just as they did when they began the game. Together as one on a journey through the toughest road yet.