FULLERTON — Just three spots separate the women's basketball teams from Orange Coast College and Fullerton in the Southern California rankings. But the margin for error for the visiting Pirates Friday was even tighter, OCC Coach Mike Thornton said.
So, despite catching the Hornets on what Thornton considered an off night, the Pirates failed to capitalize in a showdown for first place in the Orange Empire Conference.
OCC (17-6, 4-1 in conference), ranked No. 6 in Southern California and No. 10 in the state, used a 10-0 run to take a 25-24 lead with a minute left in the first half.
But the Hornets (20-2, 5-0), ranked No. 3 in Southern California and tied for No. 2 in the state, scored the final five points of the half in the last 27 seconds and never trailed again.
OCC shot 33.3% from the field, including two of 16 from three-point range (12.5%), and were bested in the rebounding (43-32) and turnover categories (16-15), by the hosts.
Pirates sophomore Samantha Hansen had 24 points, 14 rebounds and made nine of 17 field-goal tries, as well as six of her seven free throws.
But the 6-foot standout got little help from her teammates.
Other than Hansen, the rest of the roster was 10 for 40 from the field and combined for 19 rebounds.
Fullerton freshman Aunjanay Chambers came off the bench to nearly match that contribution, collecting 17 points and 11 rebounds to back a 22-point performance by freshman guard Amanda Frost.
"We just didn't play well enough to win," said Thornton, whose team rallied to within 48-44 with 6:50 left in the game. "There is not much room for error when you play a good team like that, and I don't think Fullerton played particularly well. [The Hornets] gave us a lot of opportunities and we just didn't take advantage.
OCC's biggest struggles came on offense, operating against an athletic lineup that disrupted the Pirates typically crisp execution. On most possessions, the Pirates were relegated to free-lance drives and inside moves by Hansen to produce shots, much less points. Many times OCC's off-balanced shots resembled desperation heaves more typically seen when trying to beat the shot clock.
"There have been times when we've played Fullerton in the past that they've done a good job defensively and taken us out of [our offense], and they are a good defensive team," Thornton said. "But I really didn't think that was the case tonight. I think [the reason for the offensive woes] was more us.
"It's disappointing. I felt like we were playing well [having won five straight] and we had a big win Wednesday [a 71-70 home triumph over Cypress]. I thought we'd come out and execute better. It's not necessarily effort, it's just being more mentally tough and competing a little better. Our kids really wanted to win that game. But you've got to execute and you've got to follow the game plan, and we didn't do that."
The Pirates surrendered seven layups to the Hornets, four of which came in transition. Two of Fullerton's layins came seconds after OCC missed a layup at the other end.
Chambers' only three-pointer was another big shot for the hosts, as it bumped the Hornets' cushion to 48-40 with 7:57 remaining.
OCC missed six of its first eight foul shots, before connecting on 11 of its final 13.
Fullerton, which did not attempt a free throw the first 23 minutes, finished 14 of 22 from the foul line. The Hornets shot 35.6% from the field and 31.6% from three-point range (six for 19).
Sophomores Alyssa Hanson and Helena Robel had 10 and eight points, respectively, but Hanson was three for 10 from the field.
OCC sophomore Amanda Deal, who came in averaging 12.6 points per game and had been shooting 38.3% from beyond the arc (67 for 175), was 2 for 11 from the field, one of six from threedom, and finished with seven points.
Fullerton extended its winning streak to five.
Orange Empire Conference
Fullerton 62, Orange Coast 53
OCC – Hansen 24, Hanson 10, Deal 7, Vingerelli 0, Yamasaki 0, Robel 8, Pikula 2, Little 2.
3-pt. goals – Deal 1, Robel 1.
FC – Frost 22, McClain 8, Adams 7, Hatch 6, Ito 0, Champers 17, Coleman-Thomas 2.
3-pt. goals – Frost 4, Hatch 1, Chambers 1.
Halftime – FC, 29-25.