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Women's college hoops: COC’s run like none other

A lot had to go right for Cougars to rally late, get into playoffs

Posted: February 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

Years from now, this season will be used as motivation for future College of the Canyons women’s basketball players.
If times get tough, coaches can always look back and say, “Hey, remember that 2012 team? They were in last place and they still won conference.”

In the last month of the regular season, COC catapulted from seventh place in the Western State Conference, South Division to finish tied for first.

It kept two major streaks alive for the program. The Cougars won at least a share of their seventh straight WSC South championship and earned a spot in the playoffs for the 19th straight year.

“People will go away from this season saying, ‘Oh COC won another conference,’” said COC head coach Greg Herrick. “I’ll tell you what, we didn’t do it like we ever have before.”

The strong finish gave the Cougars a No. 12 seed in the Southern California Regional Playoffs, where they’ll travel to face fifth-seeded Cerritos College on Saturday at 7 p.m.

It was quite a journey to reach this point.

By Jan. 14, COC was 1-3 in conference play with its only win coming off a forfeit by Citrus College, which was penalized for using an ineligible player during the game.

The situation was dire.

This was unprecedented for a team that has dominated its conference for so long, boasting 13 total titles and carrying a .750 all-time winning percentage since the team’s creation in 1986.

Since 1995, COC has advanced to at least as far as the State Elite 8 five times, including an appearance in the state championship game in 1997.

Never has a Cougar team won conference after a 1-3 start though.

Not until now, thanks to eight straight wins to finish the season.

“At the end of the day we weren’t satisfied with how we were playing and knew we were better than that,” said COC sophomore and leading scorer Angelica Sahagun. “We just came out one day and said we don’t want this anymore and we want to show people this is not who we are.”

In 30 years coaching basketball — the last 20 at COC — Herrick said he doesn’t remember one of his teams ever rallying back like this.

It was made possible by a classic Herrick style of fastbreak, potent offensive play.

Before the winning streak began, the Cougars averaged 71 points per game and held an 11-10 record.

Since then, they’ve picked it up to 83 points per contest.

The sudden scoring boost coincided with the return of sophomore guard Bev Weaver, who missed the first four conference games with a neck injury.

Weaver attributes the turnaround to better team chemistry.

“Every day we started getting closer,” she said. “Every practice we started to get to know each other really well, even outside of practice.”

Despite the missed time, Weaver is the WSC South’s seventh leading scorer at 15.5 points per game and she leads the conference with 70 made 3-pointers.

In four games without her, the Cougars made just 4-of-42 shots from beyond the arc.

Since her return, the team has gone 33 percent from three-point land.

She also adds an extra dimension in transition and on the defensive end.

“We just didn’t have any firepower offensively without (Weaver) in the lineup,” Herrick said.

With Weaver inserted back into the lineup, it opened up Sahagun to open up her offensive game.

She ranks fourth in conference with an 18.6 points-per-game average.

The combination of Sahagun’s scoring, Hart High graduate Amanda Ajdari’s maturity at point guard and Jazzmyn Davis’ presence in the post has manifested into an effective formula.

It’s a formula that has COC peaking in confidence and believing it can make another run deep into the playoffs.

“It’s like expect the unexpected,” Sahagun said. “People just underestimate us, but we come out. We shock them. People won’t underestimate us anymore. I like the feeling of being an underdog.”

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