TORRANCE — Back in 2003, the Glendale Community College women’s basketball team experienced a tough one-point loss in a first-round playoff game of the California Community College Athletic Assn.State Championships Southern California Regional.
Sixteen years later, Vaqueros returned to the playoffs Friday for the first time since that loss and had to travel to El Camino to face a gritty Warriors team in the second round.
This time, Glendale used a scoring run in the final quarter to separate itself from El Camino, securing a 71-55 victory,
Glendale (22-5) will play the winner of top-seed Moorpark against No. 16 Cerritos, which play Saturday.
Glendale’s last playoff appearance in 2003 ended in a 65-64 loss to Los Angeles Trade Tech in the first round.
The trailing Warriors (23-7) made it a 37-34 game with 4:23 left in the third quarter, but a 10-2 run to open the final quarter set the visitors up for success.
“It’s a game of runs and, for some reason, El Camino’s energy level was stronger than ours,” Glendale coach Joel Weiss said. “I think the first half, ours was very good and then we hit kind of a temporary spurt where we weren’t playing with the same force and it was just a matter of getting them refocused on that.
“They know when they’re not doing it and usually, with those spells, we get in and out of them, but this one stuck around for a bit. I thought they regrouped and refocused really well towards the end of the third quarter and into the fourth.”
The Vaqueros were led by sophomore pair Cheyenne Jankulovski and Sylvia Vartazarian (Glendale High), who scored 22 and 20 points, respectively.
Early foul troubles forced Vartazarian to sit out much of the first half, and gave more opportunities to sophomore Marlene Salazar, who posted 14 points on five-of-seven shooting and helped the Vaqueros fend off the Warriors temporarily.
“Day in and day out we go into practice with this mentality of working as hard as we can so when we go out on the court. We keep that same mentality and we don’t really let anything phase us,” Salazar said. “We know what we are as a team and we know what we need to do to win, so we kind of are a family and we use that to push us ahead.”
Vartazarian scored the Vaqueros’ first six points as the Warriors vied neck-and-neck with the visitors and held a 7-6 lead for a brief period.
The Vaqueros switched to the smaller lineup to cope with its foul troubles and ended the first quarter with a 10-9 advantage.
“I thought about putting [Vartazarian] back in, but we were defending and Haley Wilson gave us great minutes, defensively, and so I felt the game was going according to how we wanted it to go.” Weiss said. “I didn’t want Vartazarian to get her third foul and you saw her ability to play without foul trouble.
“Her aggressiveness in the second half was huge. We really kind of rode her on the inside and Cheyenne driving out to the basket. So I thought those kids played terrific, really, everybody played well and our bench was really energetic, which was nice.”
Jankulovski found her stride in the second quarter and nailed all five of her attempts from the field for 11 points to help the Vaqueros to a double-digit lead.
Glendale outscored El Camino, 11-2, to start the first half before the Warriors cut it to 21-16 after five unanswered points midway in the quarter.
The Vaqueros answered right back with a Salazar three-pointer to close the half with a 26-17 Glendale lead.
“We went over the game plan endlessly,” Salazar said. “We knew what we had to run, offensively. We knew who had to have the ball in their hands, so I guess execution was really what helped us. When coach called a play, we were able to run it and get it to the person’s hand and just trust it.”
El Camino started to slice the Glendale lead early in the third and made it a 35-30 game after a 9-2 run at 5:45.
The Warriors further cut further into the lead, 37-34, after a pair of free throws from Ashley Nguyen at 4:23 in the third.
El Camino continued to unease Glendale as the Warriors drew fouls and primarily scored at the line for the rest of the quarter.
“I thought a few times we got looks that we wanted and we didn’t make them, so sometimes it’s as simple as making and missing shots,” El Camino coach Steve Shaw said. “I was pleased the way we came out in the second half. Glendale makes it really hard on you.
“You have to work and work and work on both ends of the floor and I thought we did in the second half, but Glendale played great. They had a great year, they played great and I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be an easy match up.”
The Vaqueros finally put a string of shots together late in the third quarter and led, 47-38, after three.