Gauchos rally to take over first place

Omusi captured the OEC MVP award on Saturday
Omusi captured the OEC MVP award on Saturday

In a matchup of the top teams in the Orange Empire Conference, the Saddleback women's basketball team rallied for a 57-56 win over Cypress College on Wednesday night in the Saddleback Gymnasium.  The duo of Janae Omusi and Laura Tapia rallied the Gauchos as the Chargers went silent down the stretch.

Saddleback and Cypress went back and forth like a heavyweight boxing match.  The Gauchos opened with a 19-5 run to start the game and looked as if they were going to run the Chargers out of the building.  Cypress had other ideas, reeling off 19 straight points to take a 24-19 advantage as Saddleback failed to score over a 6:42 stretch.  The Gauchos then answered with eight of their own as Tapia and Omusi drilled three-pointers and Kiazha Ginwright made a jumper for a 27-24 lead.  Cypress again answered, scoring six straight points as they took a 32-30 lead into the locker rooms.

The teams settled down in the second half as neither team was able to stretch out the lead.  Saddleback rallied for a 45-43 after three quarters as Cypress went cold from the field.  The Chargers made just 4-of-14 from the field in the quarter while Tapia and Omusi scored six and five, respectively. 

Ginwright and Irma Ealy both started the fourth quarter with four fouls, forcing the Gauchos to go their bench.  Cypress again rallied, scoring eight straight points to start the final quarter as Saddleback looked gassed.  Joi Bertrand put Cypress ahead 56-51 with a lay-up as things looked bleak for Gaucho fans.  Unfortunately, for Cypress, it would be the last time they would score as Saddleback finished on a 6-0 run over the final 4:15, turning back the Chargers. 

Ealy drained two free throws to start the run after getting fouled under the basket with 3:07 remaining.  Omusi then continued the run with a put-back lay-in with 1:57 remaining on the clock.  She then finished the scoring with 1:04 remaining as the Gauchos took a 57-56 lead.  Cypress had two chances to regain the lead, but a missed jumper by Alyssa Movchan with 56 seconds remaining and a missed three-pointer by Sylvia Garcia at the buzzer sealed the fate of the Chargers. 

Saddleback had a big night on the glass, outrebounding Cypress 52-41 for the game.  In addition to her 19 points, Omusi finished with a game-high 15 rebounds.  Tapia finished 5-for-18 from long range.

Saddleback is now 17-5 overall and 4-0 in Orange Empire Conference play following the win.  The Gauchos will look to continue their streak on the road at Santa Ana College on Friday.  Tip time is scheduled for 5:00 PM.