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Arabs knocked out of playoffs

March 07, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

NORWALK — As the Imperial Valley College women's basketball team left the Cerritos College gym Wednesday night, the emotions running through the players could be seen on their faces following the team's 71-56 loss to Cerritos College in the Southern California regional community college playoffs.

When the season started one of the main goals set by IVC was to not only make the regional tournament but qualify for the state tournament. The loss to Cerritos knocked the Arabs from the regionals and shattered the dream of making it to state.

"What's disappointing is knowing that we could still be playing," said IVC coach Jill Tucker. "If we would've shown up tonight, who knows how far we could've gone?


"We can take a loss if the other team is better than us, but knowing that we didn't show up to play, at least in that first half, is what's disappointing," said Tucker. "I think that having never been put in this position before, with state in our sights, we may have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. I think (the players) looked at it not like we were playing Cerritos, but more just the idea that we were playing the No. 2 seed."

After posting a 23-win season and finishing second in the Pacific Coast Conference, the 15th-seeded Arabs ran into a Falcon team that was just a little better on this one night.

After hanging with the No. 2 seed through the first five minutes, the Arabs gradually let the game slip away as an 8-6 Cerritos lead at the 14-minute mark turned into a 13-point deficit only seven minutes later.

It was evident that IVC would be in for a battle as the gap widened through the rest of the first half.

While ill-advised passing, missed shots and missed opportunities hurt IVC's chances of playing spoiler, its inability to stop the Cerritos' offense led to the team's downfall.

In the first half the Falcons put together runs of 7-0, 11-3 and 7-3 to take a 40-22 lead into the break.

Things didn't get any easier for IVC in the second as Cerritos kicked off the half with a 15-3 scoring barrage to take a 55-25 lead with 13 minutes 42 seconds to play.

With the game out of hand and a seemingly inevitable conclusion on the horizon, something happened. After struggling through the first 27 minutes, things started to click for the Arabs. What went wrong in the first half started to go right in the second. What had been ill-advised passes turned into highlight reel material.

IVC's offense started clicking and its defense clamped down, holding the Falcons to only 16 points the rest of the way.

In that stretch the Arabs scored more points than they had the previous half, racking up 31 points, led by the sophomore triumvirate of point guard LaToya Jackson, forward Sandra Ramos and center Jello Moore.

Of the team's 31 points in that run, the three combined for all but five. Leading the three was Jackson with 11 points.

"At halftime we told them that it was now or never … and if they were going to go out like that, or if they were going to go out fighting," said Tucker. "If we would've played the way we're capable of playing, it should never have come down to that."

Jackson finished with 17 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals and Moore finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ramos had 11 points, four rebounds and two steals and sophomore shooting guard Jenny Burgos added nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

IVC finishes with a 23-8 overall record and second in the PCC with an 8-2 mark.

The next challenge for Tucker and her staff will be getting the Arabs ready to contend for the postseason next year as they have to fill the void left by four sophomore starters.

"We have four, five sophomores we're going to have to replace. With the players we have coming back, we'll be able to build for next year," said Tucker. "Really, next season starts now. And I know that we're going to keep getting better and better.

"With where we're at now, I'd say we're going in the right direction," said Tucker. "If the season we had this year hasn't made people want to come out here and play, then I don't know what will."

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