JC NOTES / Irene Garcia : Coach Turns Losers Into Winners

It’s a good thing El Camino College women’s basketball Coach Kristy Loesener specializes in taking over struggling programs.

The first-year coach inherited a team that won a dismal seven games last year, three in the South Coast Conference. The Warriors finished with a 3-11 record in the SCC and 7-22 overall.

“That’s what I’ve always done,” Loesener said. “I Take over cellar programs. I like that challenge.”

Loesener, who played basketball at Cal State Northridge, was the head coach for two years at Redlands University before coming to El Camino as a health instructor and women’s basketball coach.


Before that she was an assistant coach at the University of Utah and head coach at University High School in Los Angeles and Glendale College.

All were struggling programs that Loesener upgraded.

“I stress fundamentals and physical conditioning,” she said. “I also think that as a coach I’m concerned about my players not only on the court but off it. I even monitor their academics.”

Loesener’s system appears to be working. The Warriors are ranked No. 15 in the state with a 9-3 record despite having only one sophomore in the starting lineup, forward Melinda Brown, the team’s second leading scorer (10.9 points, 12 rebounds per game).

The Warriors are led by freshman Kim Bly from Hawthorne High (15.6 points a game) and Tammy Booker, a quick freshman guard from St. Mary’s High. Freshman forward Cheri Bullet leads the team in rebounding (17 a game).

On Wednesday, El Camino crushed East L.A., 84-29, to improve its league record to 2-1.

“Right now our defense is our strength,” Loesener said. “It initiates our fast break and allows us to control the boards. I think if we keep playing the way we have, we can at least secure second place in our conference and go to the playoffs.”

Loesener believes her team can reach postseason play despite the suspension of five players over a three-week period.

In last week’s 54-51 loss to Cerritos, the Warriors had only six players since three were suspended for “violating team rules.”

The Warriors won’t have a complete roster until the second round of conference on Jan. 27.

“I think we can still pull through,” said Loesener, who wouldn’t discuss the specific reason for the suspensions. “Look how good we did against Cerritos, and we were missing a starter and two others.”

The small but tough South Coast Conference gave the El Camino men’s basketball team its first test on Saturday, and the Warriors did just fine, beating Pasadena by 12 in Lancer territory.

El Camino’s league schedule may seem easy since there are only five teams in the SCC, but three are ranked in the state’s top 20.

Cerritos is No. 1, El Camino No. 14 and Pasadena No. 18.

Originally there were eight teams in the conference, but Compton, Fullerton and Golden West dropped out. That leaves Long Beach, Mt. San Antonio and the three top 20 teams in the conference.

The Warriors, ranked No. 18 in the preseason, are steadily climbing in the polls and have a chance to take a big step on Saturday when they play host to top-ranked Cerritos at 7:30 p.m.

Cerritos lost to Pasadena, 84-82, on Wednesday, and the Warriors have been gearing for the Falcons all week.

Even after El Camino defeated unranked Mt. Sac, 88-67, on Wednesday, Coach Ron McClurkin said his team was preoccupied with the Cerritos game and played poorly.

Marymount Coach Jim Masterson probably wishes his team could pull out 21-point victories with bad performances.

Even at their best, the Mariners can’t seem to win a Southern California Athletic Conference game, despite consistently strong performances from guard Ernie Woods and forward James Anderson.

The Mariners are 0-3 in the SCAC after Wednesday’s 74-70 loss to East L.A. Woods scored 24 points against the Huskies and Anderson 14, but that wasn’t enough for the Mariners, who led 31-29 at halftime.

Marymount (4-13) also lost its conference opener against Barstow and two days later fell to Trade Tech.