Pirates return to state

March 05, 2006|By Dave Thorpe

COSTA MESA ? They're baaaaack.

The Orange Coast College women's basketball team showed off its full arsenal of weapons on Saturday night in the second round of the Southern California regional playoffs. The Pirates were hot from the outside in the first half and dominant on the inside in the second half of a 69-64 victory over No. 11-seeded Imperial Valley that sends them to the eight-team state championships at Selland Arena in Fresno for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when they won the state title.

The state championship tournament opens Thursday. Seedings and matchups will be announced today.

The Pirates (29-5), who were seeded third in the Southern California regional, had to deal with a hot Imperial Valley team that upset No. 6-seeded Ventura, 83-70, in the first round.


Imperial Valley boasted the top scorer in the state in sophomore guard Ivy Smith, who was averaging 28.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists this season going into the game.

Orange Coast's focus on defense was to limit Smith's production ? not an easy task considering her athleticism and the fact the rim appeared to be magnetized every time she put up a shot in the first half. After a 14-point first half, Orange Coast held Smith to four second-half points.

The Pirates were aided by the fact that Smith was in foul trouble. She picked up her fourth foul with 13:31 left in the second half, but Imperial Valley Coach Jill Tucker chose to keep her in the game.

"That didn't surprise me because they can't play without her," Orange Coast Coach Mike Thornton said.

At the time, the Arabs were chipping away at Orange Coast's 33-25 halftime lead. Imperial Valley's Claire Zajdel got hot from outside, making three three-pointers in less than two minutes. Rhea Deal's three-pointer gave Imperial Valley its first lead of the game, 45-44, with 11:10 remaining.

The Arabs led 47-46 when a series of plays turned the game in Orange Coast's favor for good. Crystal McCormick, fresh off nailing an 8-foot baseline jumper, made two free throws. After Madison Parks came up with a block on Smith's drive, McCormick hit a transition three-pointer to give the Pirates a 51-47 lead.

Orange Coast then got it done on defense again. Smith was driving to the basket when Valerie Katayama planted her feet and drew a charge with 7:43 left in the game. It marked Smith's fifth foul. She left the game with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

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