The Lady Cougars traveled to LA Trade Tech in game 1 of the California Regional Playoffs. Jason Galvin has the highlights. Photographed and edited by Brian Lewis.
By Jason Galvin – Cougar News Staff Writer
In the end, it all comes down to fundamentals.
The 11th seed College of the Canyons Lady Cougars missed 14 free throws and committed several critical turnovers late in the game, and were eliminated in the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs by 6th seed Los Angeles Trade Tech College on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
It was a disappointing ending to a surprising season for the Cougars, who came into the night on a 19-game winning streak and on the heels of capturing their fifth consecutive Western State Conference Championship. The Cougars were led by sophomore Ashley Wakefield’s 15 points and 9 rebounds. Sophomore Joslynn Frazier added 10 points and 11 rebounds, her fourth straight double-double. Trade Tech led by 17 midway through the second half before COC came roaring back. Canyons closed the gap to two with just over a minute to play, but in the end, the Cougars could not overcome a 53% mark at the foul line.
“We missed a lot of [free throws] down the stretch. We were getting them to foul us in transition and we just couldn’t convert [the foul shots]. Making one, making none, it’s a big mountain to climb when you’re trying to come from  back against a pretty good team…” said COC coach Greg Herrick, “…you can’t just give away points like that. And I admire my kids, they played really hard. We just didn’t make enough foul shots.”
College of the Canyons jumped to an 8-2 lead early, but the Beavers of Trade Tech went on a 15-0 run through the middle of the first half. COC would close the gap to two, but Niauni Brown hit a shot at the buzzer, and Trade tech led 33-26 at the half. Brown, who shot 59% from the 3-point line this season, scored 21 points for the Beavers. Heather Sutherland scored a game high 22 points.
In the second half, the Beavers opened things up, but Wakefield put the Cougars on her shoulders and brought them roaring back with an 18-5 run. COC got close at the end, but Dominique Turner missed four free throws, and Kelli Lewis’ game-tying lay-up attempt came up short. Sutherland hit a clutch three for Trade Tech with a minute left, and the Cougars ran out of time.
“You know I thought I got fouled,” said Lewis, referring to her crucial miss at the end of the game, “Usually most refs would call that [foul]. I should have made [the shot], it just didn’t go in.”
The loss was a difficult one for Wakefield, who got to play against many of her High School teammates from LA Washington Prep.
“I don’t even know,” said Wakefield when asked about the difference at the end of the game. “It was just there night. They hit their shots and [converted] all their free throws.”
Wakefield led the state in field goal percentage this season, shooting 58% from the floor. She is expected to be named Western State Conference MVP this week, one of several awards the Cougars expect to pick up in the coming weeks. The Cougars finish the season with a 22-5 record, impressive for a team whose coach said they would not be very good, and probably would miss the playoffs in December.
“Our expectations weren’t very high, it’s not one of the more athletic teams we’ve had and it’s not one of the better basketball teams we’ve had, but it does have it’s own personality, they never quit and they played hard,” said Herrick, who just completed his 18th season at COC, “There was no quit in this team. They exceeded all the expectations we had and I’m just privileged to have been able to coach them.”
Up next for Trade Tech is a showdown with Mt. San Antonio College, a team that beat the Beavers 61-50 in a game earlier this season.