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Young SMC Women’s Team Eyes Improvement:

The Santa Monica College women’s basketball team got off to a slow start this season, but so did last year’s team that rallied to win the Western State Conference championship.

“We were horrible at the beginning of last season, but then it came together,” said Coach Lydia Strong.

This season SMC lost 12 of its first 15 games but won its home opener from Long Beach City College, 75-50 on Saturday night, January 3.

“We played much better than we’ve been playing,” said Strong. “This is a young team with only two players returning from last season.”

If the Corsairs gain an identity they could be a factor in the conference race. In beating Long Beach, SMC applied defensive pressure that down the visitors, and Jewell Morris and Liz Zimmerman dominated inside play in the second half.

Morris, from Venice High, returns from last year. Zimmerman is a freshman from St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood.

SMC’s lead was 58-49 when freshman point guard Karila Batila from Santa Monica High made consecutive three-point shots to begin a 17-0 run. Long Beach then scored the final point of the game.

It’s the nature of community college basketball that there’s a major roster change each year, and continuity takes time.

SMC took a 9-3 lead at the outset but the game was tied at 19 before the Corsairs regained control and went ahead 35-26 at halftime.

Long Beach, which has also struggled early in the season, stayed within striking range until SMC made its final run.

The Corsairs are adjusting to the absence of former Palisades High center Jasmine English, who completed her two SMC years last season. She’s now at the Academy Of Arts in San Francisco.

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