COSTA MESA — Single-minded focus can be an outside shooter's greatest asset. But in addition to taking aim at the rim Friday night, Orange Coast College sophomore Amanda Deal also had some rivals squarely in her sights.
Deal made her first two three-point attempts to help the Pirates seize an 8-0 lead, and went on to net six of 11 from three-point range and score a game-high 22 points to pace a 62-54 Orange Empire Conference women's basketball win over visiting Irvine Valley.
Deal, who entered the game leading all Orange Empire players in three-point field goals, widened that margin by outgunning her two closest long-range competitors, both of whom play for the Lasers.
Deal came in with 56 three-pointers in 150 attempts (37.3%). By connecting on three of her first four attempts from beyond the arc in each half Friday, she is now 62 for 161 from threedom (38.5%).
IVC sophomore Ashley Fajardo was two of seven from three-point distance and is now 38 for 83 on the season (45.7%). Lasers' freshman Megan Blackwell made just two of 11 three-point attempts and is now 39 for 117 (33.3%).
Furthermore, Fajardo, Blackwell and sophomore guard Haley Raycie, the Lasers' third-best perimeter threat, combined to make just nine of 36 field-goal tries (25%) against an active OCC defense that also forced 22 turnovers.
"It's competitive," said Deal, whose sharpshooting helped the Pirates improve to 15-5, 2-0 in conference. "I do look at the [conference] stats, because I want to see who else is shooting well,"
When Deal is on the mark, Orange Coast, ranked No. 11 in the state and No. 6 in Southern California, can be tough to beat.
"She's a big key for us," OCC Coach Mike Thornton said of Deal, who is averaging 13.1 points per game this season, second on the team behind sophomore forwardSamantha Hansen (16.3). "We have a good inside-outside game when [Hansen] is scoring inside and [Deal] is scoring outside."
The inside-outside ball movement utilized by the Pirates, made it difficult for IVC defenders to maintain their attention on Deal, who was the lone Pirate who was effective from the perimeter (the rest of the team made just one of 16 three-point attempts).
"When we move the ball, especially when we get it in the post and out, the defense dives inside [and can't recover]," Deal said. "If I make my first shot, or my second, I usually get into my rhythm. So, it was nice to make the first one tonight. That rarely happens. I know that [the Lasers, who fell to OCC, 62-59, in the IVC tournament on Dec. 11 at IVC] know that I'm a shooter, so to get the [open] shots I got tonight was pretty awesome."
OCC built a 27-11 cushion before settling for a 29-17 halftime advantage.
And with Deal netting a trio of three-pointers in the first 4:07 of the second half, OCC eventually upped the lead to 58-36 with 6:25 left.
IVC, which forced 20 turnovers and posted a 43-31 rebounding advantage, finished the game on an 18-4 run.
Hansen made five of six field-goal tries to finish with 10 points, while adding four rebounds and two assists.
OCC sophomore guard Alyssa Hanson had six points, four assists and two steals, while sophomore Michelle Yamasaki had five assists and four points for the winners.
Helena Robel, a 5-foot-5 reserve guard, led OCC with five rebounds.
The Pirates finished 41.5% from the field, while IVC (9-8, 0-2) shot 33.3% from the field and 21.7% from three-point range (five of 23).
Fajardo had 14 points to pace the Lasers, who nearly upset Fullerton, the No. 2-ranked team in the state, Wednesday.
"Fullerton is definitely the team to beat [in conference]," Deal said. "So, [IVC's 59-57 home loss] kind of gives us a little motivation."
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 62, Irvine Valley 54
IVC – Kashanchi 11, Hubbard 2, Fajardo 14, Rosales 2, Haley 0, Blackwell 11, Valentine 8, McClure 6.
3-pt. goals – Fajardo 2, Blackwell 2, Kashanchi 1.
OCC – Hansen 10, Vingerelli 2, Deal 22, Hanson 6, Yamasaki 4, Pikula 7, Little 5, Robel 4, Carranza 2.
3-pt. goals – Deal 6 Little 1.
Halftime – OCC, 29-17.