The Lancers lead had dropped a very comfortable lead in the fourth quarter from 20 points to an enigmatic 10 points with a little less than four minutes left. Head coach Joe Peron instructed his point guard Maiya Villanueva, who wasn’t having her greatest shooting performance, to slow it down. On average, Villanueva scores 14 points and shoots 30% from the field. Tonight she had 9 points and shot 14%, with three of those points coming from free throws.
It felt as if the Beavers had stolen all of the momentum with its four and a half players, the half being the hobbled Ja-Niah Perkins-Jackson. With a fully healthy Lupe Vazquez and more rotation players at Peron’s disposal than L.A. Trade Tech, PCC was spiraling and inching closer and closer to losing this game. It was obvious that tensions were rising when freshman center Tatiana Ayala cursed from the bench in frustration. Moments later she was seen walking off the bench and out of the Hutto-Patterson stadium.
“I cussed and my coach kicked me out,” Ayala said.
It took a near turnover to end the Beavers run. At the baseline out-of-bounds play, The Lancers threw the ball into traffic as the Beavers surrounded Vazquez, the leading scorer in the state with 28.1 points per game, while the rest of the Beaver defenders set up a trap at half court. The ball bounced around the floor and landed in Vazquez’s lap like a Deus Ex Machina was present that night. Vazquez scored another 3-point shot, bringing her total to 34 points for the night and leading PCC to a 75-67 victory.
Vazquez’s stroke is so effortless, it’s easy to see that she puts up 500 shots per day. The ball seamlessly comes off her fingertips and spins vertigo stroke after stroke after stroke. However, tonight everyone anticipated that this would have been a battle against the number one scorer in the state, Vazquez, versus the number two scorer in the state, Ja-Niah Perkins-Jackson. But Jackson has been suffering from a left ankle sprain. She was limping when she entered the gym Wednesday night and would continue limping throughout the matchup. The Beavers showed up to the gym with four coaches and five girls and an additional girl in crutches, so if Jackson doesn’t hobble around they’ll have to forfeit the divisional South Coast Conference rivalry game. Regardless of who was on the floor, Vazquez treated it like it was just another game.
“I didn’t know which one it was. I just know that it was one of them,” Vazquez said, responding to the matchup of the top two scorers in the state. “You know, I treat it the same when I’m competing against anybody no matter what. I don’t put anyone higher just because they’re second or what.”
At the beginning of the first quarter, Vazquez shot 3-3 against the Beavers. The Lancers finished the first quarter up 24-10. Vazquez had 12 points, shooting 4-10 from the 3-point line. She started the second quarter much like the first, driving around a screen and popping up for another 3-pointer. This time she was slapped in the face by a defender, taken back by the fact that a foul wasn’t awarded to her.
The Beavers decided to make some early adjustments to the way that they were defending Vazquez after her standout shooting. This time they sent a double team at her. Vazquez noticed it early and dished it off to sophomore guard Kaniya Hill for an open 3-pointer. On another occasion the defense swarmed to Vazquez as soon as she dribbled near the 3-point line, leaving freshman guard Naomi Turner open under the basket for an easy layup. The Lancers had a comfortable lead at halftime 39-25.
Jackson finally knocked down her first field goal attempt until two minutes into the third quarter. Her coaching staff got excited and praised her injury-prone performance. It was impressive that she remained in the game in that status, yelling out defensive assignments to balance her performance. This might be the moment the superstar would push through her injury. She tried following up that possession by driving into the right side of the lane, but ran into a PCC defender inadvertently. Nobody was stepping up for the Beavers and the rest of her teammates’ minds were driving them more than their feet. PCC was able to extend its lead up to 20 from their fatigue.
“I’m alright,” Perkins-Jackson said responding to her coaches while keeping her countenance focused on the court while sitting on the bench during a timeout.
Vazquez was still knocking down shots but she appeared fatigued even more so than Jackson. None of her teammates were scoring without her assistance, so every pass and shot was generated by Vazquez. She passed the ball over three defenders who were facing the opposite direction on an out-of-bounds play. This time freshman center Tatiana Ayala was the benefactor of another great pass into the paint.
The Beavers started to play more physically at the start of the fourth quarter. Some were slashing with elbows on the offensive side, others were imposing their will on the defensive side. Either they were getting extremely frustrated or knew that their size was their only advantage. Janae Turner of L.A. Trade Tech shot 4-15 from the 3-point line while Kierra Haynes kept getting to the free throw line. Haynes shot 11-14 from the line. Head coach Joe Person was forced to call a timeout after the Beavers scored on three straight possessions.
The Lancers managed to hold onto the lead even with Vazquez starting to go cold. After the game coach Peron was speaking with Sports Information Specialist Robert Lewis about how it took 37 shots to make 34 points. Vazquez complained of a headache and promised she would be better against Mt. San Antonio College. If the Lancers can win Friday night, they’ll break even, but for now they are 8-9 on the season.
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