A furious comeback by the Allan Hancock College women's basketball team in the fourth quarter ran out of steam as the Bulldogs lost in the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs 75-63 at Santa Ana College Wednesday. The Bulldogs, who made their first postseason appearance since 1995, finished the season 17-10 overall. Santa Ana, the No. 15 seed, improved to 16-13 and advanced to face No. 2 East Los Angeles in Saturday's second round.
The Bulldogs fell behind by as many as 17 points at 60-43 late in the third quarter before freshmen Taylor Lee-Hammer and Grace Rosa, as well as sophomore Destinee Garcia took control for the next five minutes. Behind a 13-0 run, Hancock climbed to within four points at 60-56 before fading down the stretch as the Dons regained control. Until the final minute of play, Hancock head coach Cary Nerelli had only used one reserve player off his bench, sophomore guard Ne'Chelle Martinez. She hit a jump shot at the free throw line to maintain a four-point deficit with about five minutes to play.
Lee-Hammer led the Bulldogs with 18 points. The freshman went 5-for-8 from the field, and sank 4-of-5 from 3-point range and all four free throws. The All-Conference First Team guard also pulled down five rebounds and had four assists.
Rosa finished with 17 points behind a 7-for-16 effort from the floor. The Paso Robles High School graduate pulled down seven rebounds and blocked one shot. Rosa scored seven points in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs carry a 17-16 lead into the second quarter.
Sophomore guard Destinee Garcia scored 15 points on the night, pulled seven rebounds and had four assists in her final game with the Bulldogs. Garcia went 7-for-14 from the floor.
Freshman guard Karly Beyers finished with six points. Beyers was 2-for-14 from the field. Before fouling out of the game in the fourth quarter, Naomi Leopardi compiled five assists, three rebounds and two points.
Hancock shot 42 percent overall from the floor by hitting 24-of-57 shots. The Bulldogs went 6-fof-19 from 3-point range for a 32 percent clip.
Santa Ana shot 57 percent in the first half and built a 38-32 advantage at intermission. The Dons finished the game 32-for-64 overall and shot 23 percent from 3-point range. They sank 8 of their 14 free throws. Blaysen Varnadoe led the Dons with 25 points and nine rebounds. The forward hit 11-of-18 from the floor. Taylor Ivicevic added 14 points for Santa Ana.
The Bulldogs' memorable season included several milestones under their fourth-year head coach. Hancock finished with its highest win total since 1994-95, which was also the last time the program made an appearance in a regional.