IRVINE — Samantha Hansen says all it takes to cure her notorious case of pregame nerves is the opening tip. But it was crunch time in which the Orange Coast College sophomore appeared most at ease Saturday.
Hansen, whom OCC women's basketball coach Mike Thornton said may get as nervous before a game as any player he has had in four decades, scored nine points in the final 5:48 in the Pirates' 62-59 win over Irvine Valley in the championship game of the Irvine Valley Tournament on the Lasers' floor.
Hansen, a 6-foot forward, scored 16 of her game-high 25 points after halftime and also led the Pirates (10-2) with seven rebounds. She made nine of 15 field-goal tries, mostly on mid-range jumpers, to earn the tournament's Most Valuable Player award. It's the second straight tournament MVP trophy for Hansen, who paced the Pirates to the crown at the Cuesta Tournament one week prior.
Hansen's most important production came after IVC (6-5) rallied from a 41-31 deficit to take a 50-49 lead with 6:01 remaining. She netted a 10-footer to put the Pirates back on top for good with 5:48 left and added two more free throws and a five-foot jumper during an 8-0 OCC run that spanned 79 seconds and left them with a 57-50 edge.
Then, after IVC broke a scoreless drought of more than four minutes to close within five, Hansen's three-point play upped the lead to 60-52 with 1:45 left.
Sophomore Amanda Deal (10 points) netted two free throws with eight seconds left to lock up the sixth straight win for the Pirates, ranked No. 10 in Southern California and No. 17 in the state.
"I always get nervous [before a game], then after the jump ball, I'm fine," said Hansen, who leads OCC in scoring at 15.8 points per game.
But when it comes to finding shots in the Pirates' half-court offense, Hansen said there is nothing to be anxious about.
"I'm very comfortable," Hansen said of her offensive role, which typically involves being fed consistently in the lane with passes from her teammates on the perimeter.
Hansen is also feeling good about the strong start to the season for the Pirates, who were 16-13 a year ago and missed the playoffs for the first time in 19 seasons.
"I'm very satisfied," she said with the team's early performance. "We're on a roll right now."
It was the Lasers, who upset College of the Canyons, ranked fifth in SoCal and No. 8 in the state, in Friday's semifinals to get an unexpected meeting with their Orange Empire Conference rivals, who were on a roll at the outset Saturday.
IVC made its first five field-goal attempts, the first three from three-point range, to earn an 11-4 cushion less than three minutes into the game.
But the hosts missed their next 13 shots from the field, during which OCC produced a 14-1 spurt, and the Lasers were playing catch-up from then on.
"We didn't execute the game plan, particularly on defense," Thornton said. "We were supposed to switch screens to get out on their shooters. They had four three-pointers in the first half and those were by people we needed to guard better."
Both teams made four of nine from threedom in the first 20 minutes. OCC missed all seven of its shots from beyond the arc after intermission, but still prevailed, largely due to Hansen producing nearly 60% of their 27 second-half points.
OCC was also keyed by sophomore reserve Helena Robel, who had all 11 of her points before halftime on her way to earning all-tournament honors. Robel had three assists, one steal, two rebounds and no turnovers in 25 minutes.
"She did a great job," Thornton said of the 5-5 guard, who came in averaging 4.8 points per contest. "She doesn't score a lot, but she played with a lot of confidence tonight. And she does all the little things."
Ashley Fajardo led IVC with 21 points to earn all-tournament honors.
Tyne McClure (nine points and four rebounds) was another all-tournament choice for the Lasers.
Orange Coast 62, Irvine Valley 59
OCC – Hansen 25, Vingerelli 6, Deal 10, Hanson 0, Yamasaki 0, Robel 11, Little 8, Pikula 2.
3-pt. goals – Deal 2, Robel 1, Little 1.
Fouled out – Hansen.
Technicals – None.
IVC – Haley 13, McClure 9, Kashanchi 1, Fajardo 21, Rosales 0, Blackwell 7, Valentine 6, Washington 2.
3-pt. goals – Fajardo 3, Haley 2, Blackwell 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – OCC, 35-29