The battle for the Orange Empire Conference women's basketball championship officially began on Wednesday, January 3rd as eight teams took the floor. With non-conference play coming to a close, three OEC teams remain ranked in the CCCWBCA's South Region top-15. Irvine Valley College tops the list, ranked No. 9 in the state and No. 4 in the south. Back-to-back defending OEC champion No. 13 Cypress College and No. 14 Riverside City College round out the south region's top-15.
Below is a short recap on each team's season so far, in order of the current standings.
Irvine Valley College – State Ranking: #9, SoCal Ranking: #4 (13-3, 2-0 OEC)
The Lasers entered conference play winning nine of their previous 10 games, including a championship at the 13th Annual Irvine Valley Tournament. IVC is currently the highest scoring team in the Orange Empire Conference, averaging 69.6 points per game as a team. The lasers rely on a balanced attack led by sophomore forwards Kasey Smit and Kiara Warren, along with freshman guard Lexi Vail. Smit has separated herself as one the OEC's top players, averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.
Riverside City College – SoCal Ranking: #14 (11-5, 2-0 OEC)
The Tigers began OEC play riding a five game winning streak, including a third consecutive E.O.S Tournament Championship. The conferences' leading scorer, in sophomore Dejah Wright, has led RCC all season. Wright averages 18.9 points per game on 36.4% shooting. She does a lot of her damage from long range, where she shoots a team leading 36%. Sophomore forward Joana Adams and freshman guard Kimari Hollis also play a significant role for the Tigers, averaging 13.6 points per game each.
Cypress College – SoCal Ranking: #13 (10-6, 2-0 OEC)
The Chargers have rebounded nicely after a shaky start to the season. The defending OEC Champions won 6 of their final 7 non-conference games, highlighted by a Grossmont Tournament Championship. Cypress boasts two of the conference's top five scorers in their backcourt. Sophomore guards Gabby Carbajal (17.6 ppg) and Vivian Lara (15.7 ppg) have helped elevate the Chargers back into championship consideration. Cypress is the top rebounding team in conference thanks to a bevy of freshman talent inside, including Hannah Avila-McArthur and Christa Evans.
Santa Ana College – (6-8, 1-1 OEC)
The Dons have been up and down so far this season, but showed some promise throughout their non-conference schedule. The Dons were consolation champions at the RCC Tournament and finished third in the Santa Ana Tournament. Sophomore forward Alexis Casillas has carried the scoring load for the Dons this season, averaging a team-high 14.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Freshman Candace Black and Cheryl Caldera have also been strong contributors, adding nearly 12 points per game each.
Saddleback College – (4-11, 1-1 OEC)
The Gauchos are looking to turn it around in Orange Empire Conference play. Freshman guard Kayla De Leon, who averages a team-high 16 points per game on 37.4% shooting, has led the way for Saddleback this season. The sophomore duo of Bree Shepard (14.3 ppg) and Rozlyn Pierce (13.5 ppg) have also been consistent contributors this season.
Fullerton College – (4-10, 0-2 OEC)
The Hornets are led by freshman guard Aliyah-Deen Ahmad and sophomore forward Melody Thomsen. Ahmad has proven to be one of the most efficient scorers in the OEC, averaging a team-high 14.2 points, while shooting 48% from the floor. Thomsen adds an inside presence, averaging 13.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Copper Mountain College – (0-11, 0-2 OEC)
The Fighting Cacti have yet to earn their first victory in program history as a new member of the Orange Empire Conference. Tusitusia Brown and Celeste Reyes lead the group of freshmen. Brown averages a team-high 15.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. Reyes adds just over 8 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Orange Coast College – (0-13, 0-2 OEC)
The Pirates have had an uncharacteristic season thus far, still seeking their first win of the year. Sophomore forward Sydney Driggs has been a bright spot for Coast this season, averaging an efficient 17.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.