Cougars women’s hoops stuns No.7 Pasadena City

COC sophomore guard McKenzie Stoehr tries to get around a defender in a matchup with Pasadena City College at The Masters University Friday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

College of the Canyons women’s basketball staged a 66-51 upset over No. 7 Pasadena City in its home opener Friday night at Bross Court. The Cougars improved to 3-6 and delivered the Lancers (11-2) their second loss of the season.

“I’m very proud of my team,” said sophomore forward Cristian Patron. “We’re going to start our winning streak hopefully and just keep working hard, working together and executing what we know.”

Sophomore guard McKenzie Stoehr (37 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) gave Canyons momentum that never let up on the first play of the game. She stretched forward to steal a pass and fired it to freshman guard Malia Semana (10 points, 3 assists, 4 steals) for a fast-break layup to send the crowd into an early frenzy.

“It just set [the tone] as ‘we’re aggressive right from the jump,’” said Stoehr “There’s no holding back. As soon as that whistle blows, it’s all out 100%.”

Semana believes the Cougars’ start gave her team the energy and focus they needed to compete against a tough opponent.

“I feel like that’s something we really needed,” said Semana. “Most of the time it’s the other team scoring, and we just fall back and try to move on from there. Starting on a make was great for us.”

The rest of the first quarter was tightly contested. There were five lead in the final six minutes, including an electrifying play form the Cougars with one minute remaining on the clock. Stoehr drove hard into the basket and kicked out to Semana for a 3-point jumper to secure a two-point lead headed into the second quarter.

The Cougars continued to dominate in the first half. Their vigorous defense was able to protect the inside and force the Lancers to take outside shots.

“Our defense has always been very good in the first half,” said Stoehr. 

Canyons stretched their lead as far as nine points with 1:21 left in the half. Within the final minute and a half, the Lancers created a 3-point play as Merina Latu (15 points) missed her second free throw and Pamela Gonzalez (11 points) was able to put it back. 

Pasadena City shut out Canyons within the final minute of the half and finished strong with a 3-pointer from Latu to bring the Cougars’ lead down to three as both teams headed into the locker room with a score of 27-24.

COC freshman forward Danny Diaz races to the basket in a matchup with Pasadena City College at The Masters University Friday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The first three minutes of the third quarter was a battle. Pasadena City responded almost immediately to every attempt the Cougars made to pull away. An and-one free throw put the Lancers neck-and-neck with Canyons.

A fast-break layup by Gonzalez gave the Lancers their first lead in over 15 minutes. Pasadena City extended its lead to four – its largest lead of the game – with a Latu layup as the Lancers were able to steal the ball from the Cougars on back-to-back possessions and retain possession with offensive rebounds.

Just as it seemed Canyons was about to repeat their second-half trends and run out of steam, the Cougars caught a second wind. Patron (17 points, 14 rebounds) stepped up on defense and stopped Pasadena City from collecting its own shots with 7 second-half defensive rebounds.

“I was trying to work hard and make sure I boxed out to get those rebounds to help my team,” said Patron.

A charge by Pasadena’s Latu with 5:02 left in the third returned the ball to Canyons. Down by one, the Cougars took advantage of the momentum shift to take the lead and never look back as Semana returned the favor to Stoehr and set her up for a wide-open 3-pointer to give her team a 37-35 lead.

More: 2019-20 TMU men’s basketball preview

“In the past, we’ve had big leads on teams and squandered them,” said head coach Greg Herrick. “It was good to see we were able to hang on, maintain our lead and win the game.”

Stoehr credits her team holding strong through the second half to recent chemistry and better communication.

 “Today we just kept that ball moving,” Stoehr said. “We got everyone involved. We were all on the same page. That’s what kept us going.”

Canyons ended the third quarter on a 3-point shot from Theresa Garcia (9 points), which propelled the team to its first double-digit lead. For the remaining 10 minutes of the game, the Cougars’ lead would never drop below 11 points. 

Canyons’ momentum continued to build as Patron kicked off the fourth quarter with a euro-step to layup which caused the bench to erupt from their seats. The Cougars continued to dominate throughout the fourth quarter with their lead reaching as high as 18 points twice.

“I hope we can keep the momentum,” said Semana. “We came out really strong. I’m hoping we can keep that mentality and keep our focus from the get-go.”

The Cougars conclude their four-game stretch against No. 1 Ventura at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday at Ventura College.

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