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Robel steps up to key OCC victory

Sophomore reserve guard's big second half helps lift Pirates past Southwestern. Riverside next at home Wednesday.

February 26, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — Mike Thornton had a Saturday he won't soon forget.

Earlier in the day, the Orange Coast College women's basketball coach watched his daughter, Kelsey, with pride. Kelsey is a junior utility player on the San Clemente High girls' water polo team, which won the CIF Southern Section Division II title at Irvine's Woollett Aquatics Center with a victory over Santiago of Corona.

A few hours later, Thornton was back at OCC, trying to will his team to another important win.

He can thank Helena Robel for extending the Pirates' season.

The sophomore guard had a team-high 12 points, all in the second half, as the fifth-seeded Pirates ecked out a 48-44 victory over No. 12-seeded Southwestern in the second round of the Southern California Regional playoffs. OCC will play host to No. 13-seeded Riverside in a regional quarterfinal Wednesday night.

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Robel, the team's fifth-leading scorer this season, came off the bench to lead the Pirates (23-8) in points on Saturday. She also had five rebounds, three assists, two steals and no turnovers in 26 minutes.

"She hasn't been a starter all season long, but she's given us a spark," Thornton said. "She's provided a couple of miracles for us all year long and she did it again tonight … You can't tell whether she's doing really well or not doing really well. She looks the same all the time, as opposed to me – I just keep turning redder and redder."

Robel came up with the big plays down the stretch, helping OCC past the second round for the first time since 2006, despite a season-low scoring output. Someone had to score with sophomore forward Samantha Hansen fouling out with 4:55 to play and OCC nursing a one-point lead. The Pirates' second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Amanda Deal, suffered through a one-for-nine shooting night and had just three points.

But Deal's three points were large. Robel drove the lane and found Deal for a corner three-pointer with 1:22 to play, giving OCC a 43-41 advantage.

Southwestern's Cymone Williams split a pair of free throws with 1:12 to go, but teammate Alexandria Dill grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to put the Jaguars (20-6) back up by one with 59 seconds left.

Robel wasn't done. Her three-pointer from the corner gave OCC a 46-44 advantage with 45 seconds left, then she drew a charge on Southwestern's Jasmine Bonds on the other end.

Pirates sophomore guard Alyssa Hanson made two free throws with 13 seconds left and Southwestern couldn't score again.

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