MOORPARK — The finest season in Glendale Community College women’s basketball history came to a close Saturday, but not without a fight.
The Vaqueros traveled to Moorpark College for a third-round playoff game in the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Championships Southern California Regional. But it was the top-seeded Raiders who showed early on what they are capable of.
The No. 9 Vaqueros, however, battled to tie the game in the first half and kept pace with the hosts until the final stretch of the game. But Glendale was outpaced in the fourth quarter, as Moorpark pulled away for a 79-66 victory.
“It’s hard to place it,” Glendale coach Joel Weiss said. “We missed some shots we normally make. We had some untimely turnovers. That’s basketball — it’s just magnified in a game and this point in this season in the playoffs.”
The Vaqueros tied the score at 31 with 4:50 left in the opening half and were within four points of their opponent for much of the third quarter.
Glendale (22-6) shot four of 14 in the third quarter and was unable to capitalize on Moorpark’s miscues before the Raiders (30-1) established a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to fend off the Vaqueros.
“You have to be really sharp the entire duration,” Weiss said. “I thought we were for the most part, but we had a few possessions that we all liked to get back. We had a few that just rolled out of the rim, so that’s basketball.”
The Vaqueros finish a season with their first conference title this century and their first playoff appearance since 2003.
Glendale’s 71-55 win against El Camino in the second-round of the regional playoffs was also the Vaqueros’ first playoff win this century.
“This is the winningest group of sophomores in the 40-year history of the program,” Weiss said. “They have the highest winning percentage, they have the most conference wins, the most tournament wins and wins last year. So what I can say is it’s an incredible group. It’s an incredible journey.”
Freshman and La Cañada High graduate Tess Oakley-Stilson led Glendale with 22 points. Sophomore pair Cheyenne Jankulovski and Glendale High graduate Sylvia Vartazarian finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The Moorpark offense was sparked by freshman Breanna Calhoun with 28 points and seven steals, while four other Raiders finished scoring in double figures.
“I have to give a lot of respect and a lot of kudos to that team and that coaching staff,” Moorpark coach Kenny Plummer said. “They really prepared that team. That team didn’t go away and played hard. That was one of the toughest teams we played all year and I think they should be proud of that.”
The Vaqueros got off to a shaky start and turned the ball over five times early in the opening quarter.
Despite the possession troubles, Glendale ended the first quarter with a 25-17 deficit, backed by eight points from Oakley-Stilson and six from Jankulovski.
Glendale controlled possession much better in the second period and was able to knock down a pair of three-pointers to cut the Moorpark lead to 31-27, courtesy of a Vartazarian and freshman Penelope Trieu.
Jankulovski capped a 7-0 run for Glendale to tie the score at 31 with 4:50 left in the first half.
“When we kind of started to get in a rhythm and started to make plays in a row, it became easier to get the motivation and we just knew we had to leave it on the floor,” Oakley-Stilson said. “It’s one and done, so once we got into a rhythm, it was easier to all work together and pull it out.”
Moorpark responded with a 9-0 run to take a 40-31 with 2:10 left in the half.
Vartazarian put back an effort from Jankulovski to close the half with a 45-37 deficit.
Oakley-Stilson went toe-to-toe with Calhoun in the third quarter, as both teams struggled to make a basket. The Vaqueros tallied eight points in the quarter, while the Raiders scored all seven third-quarter points.
The Raiders started to pull away early in the fourth with a three-point play from Calhoun to establish a 62-52 lead.