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No. 1 Moorpark women’s basketball outlasts No. 9 Glendale, advancing to state finals for the first time in 22 years

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No. 1 Moorpark women’s basketball outlasts No. 9 Glendale, advancing to state finals for the first time in 22 years

Freshman guard Breanna Calhoun faces off against sophomore guard Cheyenne Jankulovski, of Glendale College, during the Raiders' CCCAA Southern California regional final at home against the Vaqueros on Saturday, March 9. The Raiders won 79-66. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Freshman guard Breanna Calhoun faces off against sophomore guard Cheyenne Jankulovski, of Glendale College, during the Raiders' CCCAA Southern California regional final at home against the Vaqueros on Saturday, March 9. The Raiders won 79-66. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Freshman guard Breanna Calhoun faces off against sophomore guard Cheyenne Jankulovski, of Glendale College, during the Raiders' CCCAA Southern California regional final at home against the Vaqueros on Saturday, March 9. The Raiders won 79-66. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Freshman guard Breanna Calhoun faces off against sophomore guard Cheyenne Jankulovski, of Glendale College, during the Raiders' CCCAA Southern California regional final at home against the Vaqueros on Saturday, March 9. The Raiders won 79-66. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Robert Gonzales

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Leading by 10 with four minutes left in the game, victory was far from guaranteed for the Moorpark College women’s basketball team.

The No. 1 Moorpark Raiders (29-1) exchanged shots with the No. 9 Glendale Vaqueros (21-5) Saturday night, despite the home crowd roaring against the visitors in the echoing Raider Pavilion.

Coming out of a 30-second timeout, Moorpark Coach Kenny Plummer, drew up a play to outmaneuver the resilient Glendale defense.

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Head Coach Kenny Plummer directs the Moorpark College women's basketball team during their home playoff game on Saturday, March 9 in the Moorpark College gym. Plummer recently received his third Western State Conference Coach of the Year award. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Sophomore starters, Emily Herring and Barbara Rangel, stood as pillars on both sides of the defending guard as SoCal Player of the Year, Breanna Calhoun, worked her magic from the top of the key. The play was flowing as designed until the defender broke free from the screen. Pivoting around Rangel without any success, Calhoun passed up the ball with only four seconds remaining on the shot clock.

Freshman guard Jazmin Carrasco caught the ball at the top of the key, mindful of the shot clock, and ready to move. Three seconds. She crossed over the charging defender, barreling toward the basket. Two seconds. Help defense was encroaching. One second. Carrasco squeezed between the trailing and help defender, floating the ball off her fingertips. The ball sank into the net as the clock ticked zero. The basket counted and Carrasco was fouled on the play.

Carrasco’s free throw extended Moorpark’s lead to 13, the team’s largest lead since the end of the first quarter. With 3.5 minutes left in the game, Glendale could not recapture the momentum. Moorpark won 79-66, advancing to the state championships for the first time in 22 years.

Carrasco recalled the home crowd erupting and the opposing crowd going silent.

“It kind of just fuels us up more to just keep going,” she said. “Our crowd gets really into it, [Glendale’s crowd] not so into it. It kind of just feels like we’re letting the air out in a way, almost a relief.”

A relief for the Raiders, but a disappointing ending to the Vaqueros Cinderella story. This was their first season winning the Western State Conference East. It was also their first time advancing in the SoCal regional playoffs before their fantasy run was ended by the No. 1 Moorpark Raiders. Like the children’s fairytale, time was destined to work against them but they did not go easy into the night.

Glendale’s sophomore starters Cheyenne Jankulovski and Sylvia Vartazarian each pitched in at least 12 points and freshman wing Tess Oakley-Stilson piled on an incredible 22 points, but the effort was not enough to overcome the powerful No. 1 seed.

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Sophomore guard Emily Herring, left, is lifted up by teammate Breanna Calhoun, a freshman guard, stepping over Marlene Salazar, a sophomore forward from Glendale College, during the Raiders' home playoff game against the Vaqueros, on Saturday, March 9. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Carrasco wasn’t the only player knocking down big shots down the stretch. Calhoun made sure to get involved with her ball distribution and aggressive takes to the basket. She contributed on both ends of the court putting up seven assists, seven steals, and a 28 point stat line. Her seven steals were the most in a game by any Moorpark player this entire playoff run.

“I just feel like anytime you step onto the court you have to leave it on the court,” Calhoun said. “You only have four quarters to be able to have fun and do what you need to do in order to win. The biggest thing for me is getting my team involved and just coming out with a W, knowing that we had fun playing the game.”

The Raiders spread the wealth among the team, making sure everyone got involved in this game. Five players scored double-digit points including 10 points from freshman reserve Isabel Ayala. Each week during these playoffs, her minutes have gone up and she rewarded her coach’s trust shooting an effective 5-6 field goals in 28 minutes. The Raiders are going to need contributions from everyone as they set off to face the northern state teams.

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Freshman guard Isabel Ayala drives baseline during the Raiders' home playoff game against Glendale College on Saturday, March 9 in the Moorpark College gym. Ayala finished the night with 10 points. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

“A lot of the NorCal teams are deep,” Plummer said. “They play around 10 and 11 kids at a time. So, we have our hands full, we have to figure out how to combat that.”

So far this season, Moorpark has hurdled over all the adversity thrown their way. After that first and only loss against East LA in week nine of the season, the Raiders went undefeated in conference for the first time in 31 years, they swept the SoCal regional playoffs and advanced to the state finals for the first time in 22 years, and after setting a school record of 30 wins, they may go on to win state, another milestone Moorpark has never achieved before.

“We really turned on the jets because they hate losing,” Plummer said. “They really hate losing, the girls are just so competitive with each other that they just hate losing more than they like winning.”

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Sophomore center Barbara Rangel and freshman guard Breanna Calhoun make their way downcourt during the Raiders' playoff game against Glendale College on Saturday, March 9 in the Moorpark College gym. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Moorpark will play the state championship tournament on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, if they continue advancing. Their first game is against North’s No. 4 seed College of the Sequoias (28-3) on Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. at Ventura College, a cross-county stadium Moorpark is very familiar with.

I think it helps that we didn’t really have to travel anywhere,” Carrasco said.

“To have the state finals in our backyard is really going to bring our fans out,” Plummer said. “We look forward to playing in front of our fans and that provides that extra energy, or maybe you want to say provides that extra depth, for the team that we are lacking for in bodies, we get it from the fans.”

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Head Coach Kenny Plummer cuts his piece of the game net off after the Raiders' CCCAA Southern California regional final win over the Glendale College Vaqueros on Saturday, March 8 in the Moorpark College gym. The Raiders won 79-66. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

The Raiders will certainly have their hands full, but they are ready for the challenge.

“It’s going to be really exciting because it’s teams we haven’t seen, but our coach prepares us well and we should be able to get through it,” Calhoun said.

“I think it’s all just super fun for us,” Carrasco added. “I think we’re just enjoying having the season and just continuing to keep playing together like we don’t want to stop, we just want to keep going.”

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About the Writer
Robert Gonzales, Senior reporter

Robert Gonzales is a senior sports reporter. He received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, but was mesmerized investigating...

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