Despite making the regional playoffs for the 14th consecutive season, the Lancers’ women’s basketball team will enter unfamiliar territory on Friday when they travel to play No. 7 El Camino College.
Although the Lancers (17-10) will open the playoffs on the road for the first time since 2002, the freshman tandem of point guard Judith Espinoza and forward Regerina Baker gives PCC an athletic and talent duo that gives the Lancers’ an optimistic outlook against the higher seeded conference foe.
“Our defense is going to be the key this Friday,” Espinoza said. “Just having them (El Camino) run the clock and not fouling because El Camino is a great free throw shooting team.”
Baker, who was the CCCAA State Female Athlete of the Month for January, enters the postseason averaging a team-high 18.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 51 percent from the field. The athletic forward from Miami, Florida might not be your average forward, standing only 5-foot-10, but her aggressive play and tenacity on both ends of the floor makes her the perfect teammate and leader.
“She’s very aggressive,” freshman guard Hope Peron said. “Everything she does on offense is very poised and precise. She basically sets the tempo on offense.”
“Its amazing,” Espinoza said of playing with Baker. “I’ve never really had a really good player to make the crazy passes that you see me try to make throughout high school and even now. I know now that I can just throw the ball in her direction and I can trust her to catch it and get me more assists. She helps me out a lot and has made me a better player.”
Known for her ability to score and get to the basket, Espinoza is happy to have running a mate of Baker’s caliber and credits her for making the game a lot easier.
“Playing with Reg has made the game a lot easier for me,” Espinoza said. “Because she’s a great player so many teams are always focused on doubling her so there’s usually an open player or she beats the double team to the basket. She helps me out a lot on offense and defense and we created this chemistry that is starting to show on the court.”
Despite standing at only 5-foot-3, Espinoza averaged 15.2 points per game and finished second in the state with 7.6 assists per game. The crafty guard’s ability to get to the rim and draw contact makes it almost impossible for opponents not to get in foul trouble.
“Judith is just as poised,” Peron said. “They feed off each other’s energy and you can feel it. It motivates the rest of the team.
“I just play with heart and passion,” Espinoza said. “I love the game. I think because I’m short there’s an advantage and disadvantage. I use my height to my advantage to draw contact and get fouls. I know that if I’m really low that makes it harder for the opposing guards to defend me. Yea I’m short but I always give it my all. I have a big heart and my 5’3 size isn’t going to stop me from doing anything.”
The Lancers are 1-1 in two meetings against El Camino this season. In their first game against El Camino the Lancers lost in the Honda of Pasadena Classic, 66-59, on November 15, but returned the the favor on January 28 with a 70-66 overtime home victory.
“Playing with them has taught me you have to be tough,” Peron said. “Judith has played through a shoulder injury but she hasn’t let that stop her. We have to play as a team Friday. If we don’t pass the ball around and do everything we’ve been taught we won’t be successful.”
The Lancers travel to face El Camino College at 7 p.m. in Torrance.