By John M. Sherrard
(Walnut, CA) The Quest for its eighth CCCAA State Championship in program history began with a 69-42 win over visiting Antelope Valley College in a second round So Cal Regional game Saturday night.
The Mt. SAC Women's Basketball team (29-2), which is currently tied with Ventura College with seven titles, will continue post-season action next Saturday night as they host Mt. San Jacinto College (26-4) in a third round game with a state playoff berth on the line. Game time is 7:00 pm.
Mt. SAC defeated SJC in the state championship game in 2013.
With a 45-16 first-half lead, the Mounties never looked back as another strong performance by the bench with 29 points, propelled them to within one win of a 12th consecutive trip to the state championship tournament.
"The first one is always tough," Mt. SAC coach Brian Crichlow said. "Just getting in to a rhythm and a groove as it is, a five-game series.
"To get to game five you have to be better with every possession."
The state playoffs were expanded back to an eight-team bracket this year, which includes three games to reach the title game and two in the So Cal's.
The Mounties had three players in double figures – sophomore guard Caira Benton (6-10 FG, 3 assists, steal, 13 pts.), freshman guard Dominique McLaughlin (5-9 FG, 5 RB, 5 asst., 2 steals, 11 pts.) and sophomore G/F Aliyah Dickson (4-7 FT, 5 RB, 2 steals, 10 pts.).
Eight of the nine Mountie bench players scored, which leads the state.
"It's the depth," said Crichlow. "Every team has five that are pretty good, including Antelope Valley. But our goal is to get to six, seven, eight, nine, ten that are stronger and faster with a little more skill."
As a team the Mounties out-rebounded the Marauders by over 20 boards, 56-34, which included a game-high 10 by Benton.
In the big first half, McLaughlin and Benton scored 22 of their 24 points.
"We have to be ready and work hard, because the next team (SJC) is going to be that much better," McLaughlin said.
"It feels good (to be close to the state playoffs) but we have to just work hard and stay focused."
The Mounties have a post presence with four players that have a big inside game, including sophomore Kali Jones.
"We have to work when we play more guard-related teams," said Jones, who transferred from Santa Barbara last season.
"We're going to have a big post advantage and they are going to have a guard advantage over our posts," said Jones of San Jacinto.
Follow Mt. SAC Women's Basketball on twitter @MtSAC_WBKB
For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.