CYPRESS, Calif. – El Camino College overcame an early double-digit deficit and pulled off a narrow 72-70 victory over Palomar Saturday night in the semifinals of the 35th Annual Lady Charger Classic hosted by Cypress College.
The Warriors (5-2) fell behind 30-16 after the first quarter against a Comets' (8-2) squad that came into the game with just one loss in nine games this season.
Salihah Bey poured in a season-high 31 points for the Warriors on 10-for-21 shooting in 32 minutes of action. She also hauled in seven rebounds and added one steal. Ashley Nguyen was the only other ECC player in double figures for ECC as she scored 13 points. Makenna Peneueta led the team with five assists and Jordan Hixon grabbed eight boards to lead the Warriors in that department.
For the Comets, three players tallied double figures led by Mackenna Gentry and her 17 points. Sara Ahmadpour scored 12 points and Clarissa Tate added 10 in the losing effort.
The Comets blitzed the Warriors out of the gate, hitting eight 3-pointers in the opening period and shot 52.4 percent from the field overall.
The Warriors trailed by 14 after the opening barrage but outscored the Comets in every other quarter to chip away at the deficit and eventually grab the victory. The Comets going ice cold from the outside also helped as; after going 8-for-12 from deep in the first, Palomar shot just 7-for-30 from 3-point range in the final three quarters.
On the inside, the Warriors once again held the edge in this tournament as they outscored the Comets 42-18 in the paint.
After trailing for 32:08 and being behind by as many as 18 points, the Warriors took their first lead of the game at 62-61 on a layup from Bey with 7:52 left in regulation. They would only trail one more time after a 3-pointer from Ahmadpour put the Comets up 67-66 with 3:34 left but a pair of free throws from Bey put the Warriors back up for good.
Bey would drill a 3-pointer with 2:26 left that proved to be the game-winning shot. Ahmadpour made it 71-70 with a 3-pointer of her own with 51 seconds left but neither team would hit another field goal.
The Comets had one last shot at taking the lead but Peneueta recorded a steal with 11 seconds left and was able to drain the clock down to one second left before getting fouled. She would hit the first free throw to make it a two-point game and then missed the second attempt. The Comets grabbed the board but would not get an attempt to tie or take the lead as time expired.
The Warriors will now face hosts Cypress in the championship match of the tournament on Sunday at 3 p.m. The two teams will play each other at Don Johnson Court for the second time in 11 days after the Warriors edged the Chargers 64-60 back on Nov. 21.