COC women’s hoops program finding its way home

COC’s Alexis Orellana (22) goes in to shoot against Mira Costa defender Aly Murray (22) at College of the Canyons. PHOTOS BY DAN WATSON / THE SIGNAL

After a tough pre-conference schedule that left the team with pretty much every game on the road, the College of the Canyons women’s basketball program is finding its winning ways.

Even though their record is below .500, the Cougars (5-8) are still drawing attention as a contender, considered one of the best teams with a losing record in California right now by the other coach in the California Community College Athletic Association.

“We got off to a bad start, and we had those two big wins against those highly ranked teams,” said longtime head coach Greg Herrick. “We’re still getting votes for the top-20 in the state, and the top-15 in (Southern California).”

The Cougars started the season 2-4, before going into a four-game stretch of the toughest teams they have faced this season. The first two games were against Rio Hondo (13-5) and Allan Hancock (9-8). The Cougars lost 63-59 and 70-67, respectively.

However, Canyons bounced back from back-to-back losses with a win over then No. 7-ranked Pasadena City (11-2). The Cougars delivered the Lancers their second loss of the season 66-51 in Canyons’ home opener. Its lone home game this season was played at The Master’s University.

Canyons closed out the four-game stretch with a second double-digit victory in two days. Once again, it took down another ranked opponent, this time No. 1 Ventura College (13-3). The Cougars gifted the Pirates their second loss of the season, as well.

COC’s Cristian Patron (25) shoots against Mira Costa defender Victoria Wilson (10) at College of the Canyons on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We’ve only done that one other time since I’ve been here, beat No. 1,” Herrick said. “That was special because we did that on their floor.”

The Cougars carried the momentum they had built into the next weekend and dominated Orange Coast, 73-38. The 35-point victory gave them a three-game winning streak, the team’s longest of the season. 

The next day, East Los Angeles snapped the Cougars’ winning streak in a 73-72 heartbreaker in overtime. Canyons lost another close contest to West Los Angeles the next day to close out the Husky Classic, 65-61.

“We’re playing these top-level teams pretty closely,” Herrick said. “We’re confident that we can play well against the best teams and we’ve got to start being a little more consistent.”

Now, with conference play under way, the Cougars are looking to continue this momentum into the new year.

The team is now averaging nearly 70 points per game (69.1), while giving up 61. With the team’s lone “home” outing a success against a top-ranked team, it’s no wonder there’s optimism on the COC sidelines about the team’s homecoming.

Now that the players are able to practice on their own home court, which recently finished a renovation, Herrick expects the familiarity will help on a number of levels — especially if the team continues to hit its stride

“We got to practice on it starting (last week),” Herrick said, noting the players weren’t the only one who appreciated the new court. “I think it gave the kids a little inspiration because it’s new and we haven’t been on it since last year.

“When I walked in, it gave me that special feeling like I was home.” 

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