Empire products key SRJC win

Santa Rosa Junior College's Jen Tsurumoto reaches for the ball between Diablo Valley's Hannah Dehghan, left, and Taylor Allen on Saturday at SRJC.

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa Junior College women’s basketball team, with three former All-Empire high school players leading the way, defeated visiting Diablo Valley, 63-39, for its 11th straight win on Saturday night.

The victory keeps the Bear Cubs atop the Big 8 Conference with an 8-0 record, two in front of Sierra with six remaining.

Jen Tsurumoto, selected All-Empire Player of the Year while leading Analy to the Sonoma County League title in 2010, led the way over Diablo Valley with 16.

Mia Greco, a sophomore from Petaluma High, had 12, and Ashley Morgan, who starred last year at Maria Carrillo, had 11.

Tsurumoto, who averaged 19.7 per game for Analy, is scoring at a 14-point clip for Santa Rosa.

“It’s a lot more intense than in high school,” she said when asked her impressions of junior college basketball. “Of course the level of play is a lot higher because only the top high school players continue on.

“Conditioning is so much more important. To elevate my game, I have to stay on a running program year-round and get into the weight room at least twice a week. I didn’t have to do that in high school.”

The 5-foot-6 point guard was known in high school for her quickness and her marksmanship in 3-point territory. She has the same reputation at the junior college level as she scored several fast-break buckets and was fouled several times driving for the basket. She also nailed three shots behind the arc.

“At Analy, I knew the offense depended on me and I had to get my points or we wouldn’t win. At the JC, there are 11 other players capable of scoring in double figures. It’s taken a lot of pressure off me. Now, I look to pass more and wait for my opportunities.”

Greco, who played on last year’s Bear Cubs team that took the Big 8 title, has more than doubled her scoring output this season. The 5-foot-6 guard is averaging 14 after scoring 6.5 per as a freshman.

“Last season, we were thin at the guard position and I played the point a lot,” she said. “I was setting up the offense and my scoring suffered. Now with Jen and the other guards on the team, I get a lot of help.”

Morgan was responsible for getting Santa Rosa off to a fast start against DV. She had 11 points in the first half , including three 3-pointers.

“Junior college ball is played at a faster pace and is way more competitive than high school,” the 5-foot-10 forward said. “Once this team learned what to expect from one another, we jelled. It’s been fun.”

Early in the season, the Bear Cubs were 4-4. They are now 18-5.

“We have eight freshmen, and it took a few games for them to get used to one another and understanding what it takes to win at this level,” coach Lacey Campbell said. “We played a tough pre-conference schedule and looking back, that experience made us a better team.

“We’re in a good spot to win league, but now we have a target on our back. Everyone’s gunning for us. We have to be prepared because when you’re on top, everyone wants to play their best against you.”

The Bear Cubs defeated Diablo Valley, 72-49, at Pleasant Hill on Jan. 4 and this game was just as easy.

Santa Rosa took a 14-4 lead on a Tsurumoto trey six minutes into the game and held a 33-21 advantage at halftime.

In the second half, the Vikings got to within 38-29 with 14:20 remaining, but Santa Rosa then went on a 9-2 run with Tsurumoto scoring five of those points.

Diablo Valley (7-14 overall and 1-7 in league) got 16 points from Diane Moore. Tamaya Newsome had 14.