COSTA MESA — Orange Coast College women's basketball coach Mike Thornton acknowledged before Wednesday's showdown with visiting Fullerton that an inordinate amount of good fortune had helped the Pirates remain in contention for an Orange Empire Conference title.
But the resounding 70-53 title-clinching victory by the Hornets (26-2, 11-0 in conference), ranked No. 1 in the state, proved it can often be better to be good than lucky.
OCC (22-7, 9-2), ranked No. 6 in Southern California and No. 10 in the state, had some early magic, riding a 9-0 run to a 9-3 lead and clinging to a 22-21 deficit with 7:23 left in the first half.
But the Hornets, who have won 11 straight, finished the half on a 13-3 run to take command.
OCC, which shot 32.7% from the field, did not record a field goal the final 5:14 of the first half and the first 1:55 of the second, trailed, 53-34, with 12:29 left in the game.
OCC never got closer than 13 and are forced to settle for second place.
The Pirates have won five of their six one-point games this season and all three of their overtime contests, which will result in the 20th postseason appearance in Thornton's 22 seasons as coach.
But a third conference title in the last five years just wasn't in the cards for OCC.
"I never really felt comfortable with the game," Thornton said after Fullerton, the state runner-up last season, finished shooting 49.1% from the field, had three fewer turnovers than OCC and won the rebounding battle, 44-33.
"Defensively, they took us out of everything we wanted to do. They pressured us and we couldn't get into anything. And, defensively for us, there were too many holes in that [three-two] zone.
"I knew we had to play really well just to be in the game. I thought [the Hornets] played really well tonight. And when they're playing really well, we're going to have to have our A-plus game to be successful. We didn't have our A-plus game tonight."
OCC sophomore Samantha Hansen, an all-conference player last season who came in averaging 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds, was frustrated by Fullerton's depth, quickness and length. Hansen scored OCC's first field goal, but had only one other bucket until the final 1:35. She finished with eight points and a team-best five rebounds. She was three for 10 from the field.
Sami Little, one of eight sophomores honored after the final regular-season home game of the campaign, had 10 points off the bench to lead the hosts. She was three of six from the field, the only Pirate who took more than one shot that shot at least 50%.
OCC sophomores Alyssa Hanson (nine points), Amanda Deal and Michelle Yamasaki (eight apiece), were also productive for the Pirates.
Sophomore Amanda Frost had 18 points to lead four Hornets in double figures.
Fullerton's eight-for-21 showing at the foul line was about their only noticeable flaw.
Fullerton made 16 of 30 field-goal tries after halftime (53.3%) to make sure the Pirates could not mount one of their patented comebacks.
"We've been down 10 at halftime a lot this year," Thornton said.
Orange Empire Conference
Fullerton 70, Orange Coast 53
FC – Adams 11, Hatch 11, Frost 18, Ito 6, McClain 4, Chambers 15, Coleman-Thomas 2, Benson 2, Gurrola 1.
3-pt. goals – Hatch 3, Frost 2. Ito 1.
OCC – Hansen 8, Vingerelli 2, Hanson 9, Deal 8, Yamasaki 8, Little 10, Robel 5, August 3.
3-pt. goals – Deal, 2, Yamasaki 2. Hanson 1.
Halftime – FC, 35-25.