What was once unprecedented depth has become depletion for the Orange Coast College women's basketball team, which was overrun by a determined Cypress squad Wednesday.
OCC scored the first seven points of the game and held a 10-point lead with 6:48 left in the third quarter of the Orange Empire Conference home contest.
But Cypress used a 21-2 bench scoring advantage, a career-high 24 points and 16 rebounds from 5-foot-8 sophomore guard Sylvia Garcia, and some deadly free-throw shooting down the stretch to secure a 72-59 triumph.
The win, propels the defending conference champion (14-5, 2-0 in conference) into a first-place tie with Saddleback.
It also increases the uphill road ahead for OCC (13-8, 1-2), which had upset a talented Riverside squad in overtime on Friday after dropping its OEC opener to visiting Saddleback.
"I'm really disappointed," OCC Coach Mike Thornton said. "I know we were missing a couple players, but I felt like this is a game in which we had opportunities to put [the Chargers] away and we didn't put them away. [The visitors] have the mentality that they are not going to lose and we're not there yet."
OCC was without talented 6-1 freshman Elizabeth Sakamoto (likely sidelined for the season due to an injury unrelated to basketball, Thornton said), and sophomore Sarah Nunes (concussion). Further, freshman reserve Jenna Miramontez, who played briefly Wednesday, may be done for the year with a balky knee, Thornton said.
And as if that weren't limiting enough, sophomore starter Megan Lewis and freshman forward Sydnee Driggs both were hampered by foul trouble that kept them on the bench for extended stretches.
Additionally, Thornton said sophomore guard Michelle Wu, who shared the team lead with 18 points, was affected by illness that cut into her minutes.
Still, OCC opened impressively and, after a 29-29 deadlock at halftime, bolted from the second-half gate with four three-pointers that fueled a 12-2 run.
The Pirates led, 46-40, after sophomore Chyann Pendergrass sank a three-pointer with one minute left in the third quarter.
But OCC then went 7:24 without its next field goal, which came more than a minute after Cypress completed a 9-0 blitz in a 97-second span that broke a 49-49 tie.
After OCC pulled within 59-53, Cypress made 13 of 14 foul shots in the final 1:31 to collect its sixth straight conference win, dating back to last season.
Pendergrass also had 18 points, including making three of her six three-point attempts. She added seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block, but also shared the team lead with seven turnovers.
Cypress' pressing defense helped force 24 turnovers, nine more than the Chargers committed. Defensive pressure also contributed to the Pirates shooting 28.6% from the field, including eight-for-40 shooting from two-point range (20%).
Cypress had six more field goals on 11 more attempts and finished 24 for 40 from the foul line.
OCC made 19 of 26 free throws.
Garcia, who had 17 first-half points, had just one point through nearly the first 16 minutes of the second half. But she followed a three-pointer that gave her team a 52-49 advantage with a reverse layup after rebounding her own miss to begin the aforementioned 9-0 surge that turned the tide for good.
Danielle Oberg, a Costa Mesa High product, had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals for the Pirates and Megan McCullough had a team-best 10 rebounds off the bench. But McCullough also had seven turnovers.
"[The Chargers] wanted it more than we did," Thornton said. "They were relentless."
ORANGE EMPIRE CONFERENCE
Cypress 72, Orange Coast 59
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Cypress 12 – 14 – 15 – 30 —72
OCC 12 – 15 – 19 – 13 — 59
Cyp – S. Garcia 24, Silva 1, Culhno 20, Movchan 6, Veloso 0, Bertrand 10, N. Garcia 4, Sagiao-Jones 3, Mo. Ward 2, Carbajal 2.
3-pt. goals – Culhno 2, S. Garcia 2.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
OCC – Driggs 11, Lewis 0, Wu 18, Pendergrass 18, Obong 10, McCullough 1, Mathis 1.
3-pt. goals – Pendergrass 3, Wu 2, Obong 2, Driggs 1.
Fouled out – Driggs.
Technicals – None.