COSTA MESA — An Orange Coast College women's basketball team known for its collection of cliffhangers, took one more opponent to the edge Saturday night.
But this time, it was Cypress, on a bit of a magical run of its own, that prevailed, 49-46, to advance to the state final four.
True to form, the Pirates (24-9), who have won six of seven one-point decisions and all four of their overtime contests this season, pared an 11-point deficit with 3:53 remaining to 47-46 with 1:23 left.
Cypress (21-10) missed two front ends of one-and-one free-throw situations on its next two possessions, but OCC failed to capitalize.
Cypress sophomore Micaela Pickens, the Orange Empire Conference MVP, converted two foul shots with 21 ticks remaining and OCC called timeout with 15 seconds left to try to set up a game-tying three-pointer.
But some confusion on the play — a familiar theme for both offenses as both teams applied substantial defensive pressure —led to an off-balanced 28-foot three-point try that beat the buzzer, but failed to draw iron.
The loss ends the season for OCC, the No. 5-seeded team in the Southern California Regional playoffs.
No. 9-seeded Cypress, which lost both regular-season conference games against OCC by one point, ventures to Ventura College for the equivalent of the state's biggest dance.
"We didn't have another miracle in us, I guess," said 22nd-year OCC coach Mike Thornton, who will wait till next year to record his 500th win at the school. He is 499-219, an impressive average of 22.7 wins per season, and has made the playoffs 20 of those 22 campaigns. "And [a miracle] is what it would have taken, because we played poorly really, pretty much most of the game."
OCC shot 28.8% from the field (17 of 59) and 23.3% from three-point range (seven for 30), and committed 20 turnovers. The Pirates went nine minutes spanning the end of the first half and the start of the second, without a point and had a stretch of 8:39 later in which it did not manage a field goal.
Cypress, which had 22 turnovers, was outrebounded, 41-38, and shot 36% from the field (18 for 50), used an 11-2 run during OCC's second major offensive lull to claim a 45-33 advantage with 4:26 left.
OCC's Alyssa Hanson, an all-conference sophomore, was one for 12 from the field, while Amanda Deal, another all-conference sophomore, was three for 10 and missed her final six attempts, including all four in the second half.
Sophomore Samantha Hansen, another all-conference performer who led the Pirates' in scoring and rebounding all season, had six points and seven rebounds in 22 foul-plagued minutes.
The star for OCC was freshman Sami Little, who had 15 of her 17 points after halftime and hit two three-pointers in the final 4:02, including the one that pulled the Pirates within 47-46.
Deal had eight first-half points and was among a band of sophomores that Thornton said he will remember a long time.
"It is a special team," Thornton said. "[The players] have really been together all season and I don't think we could have asked for a lot more. They got about as much out of their bodies as they could have. It probably came as close to playing to its potential as any team I've had."
Pickens had 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, all team highs, and she shared the team lead with two blocked shots.
"She's a great, great player and she showed it tonight," Thornton said of Pickens.
Thornton credited Cypress' full-court pressure for forcing his players to hurry offensively and virtually eliminating the OCC inside game.
"They get you to play the way they want you to play," Thornton said. "The first couple of times we played them, we did a pretty good of not [rushing]. But I think we played in a hurry the whole game. Rushing had a lot to do with us not shooting well, I think. And we didn't execute very well.