Gomez did what she could, scoring 11 of her team-high 18 points after halftime to help OCC seemingly establish control after trailing the first 24-plus minutes. And her crossover dribble freed her on a drive, with seconds ticking down, that eventually sent her to the free-throw line with a chance to tie or gain the lead.
But Gomez, who stepped to the stripe having made 77.8% of her foul shots this season (21 of 27), including all four in the game to that point, saw one free throw swirl around and off the rim. The second banged off the heel, then the inside edge of the front rim, before it spun out and fell harmlessly as the buzzer blared.
“Her free-throw shooting is actually one of the most improved parts of her game,” Thornton said of Gomez, who shot 54.5% from the line (24 of 44) as a freshman. She was our worst free-throw shooter last year. But I told my assistant coaches afterward that other than Michelle Mahi, who is a great free-throw shooter [eight of eight this season], I would just as soon had Casey at the line as anybody, because I feel that she’s a competitor and she hates to lose. I would have bet my paycheck that she would have made at least one of those two.”
OCC (9-4) was down early. The Falcons (6-6) took a 17-8 lead as the Pirates missed 13 of their first 16 field-goal tries.
“We go up and down,” said Thornton, whose team is averaging just shy of 60 points per game this season. “We go through horrendous scoring droughts sometimes. We made our first field goal [Wednesday at El Camino] with eight minutes to go in the first half. We started off a little like that tonight, but obviously it wasn’t as long and wasn’t that profound.”